Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On the Hot Seat with Poet Laura Foley

Laura Foley is the author of five poetry collections. The Glass Tree won the Foreword Book of the Year Award, Silver, and was a Finalist for the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, Outstanding Book of Poetry. Joy Street won the Bi-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines including Valparaiso Poetry Review, Inquiring Mind, Pulse Magazine, Poetry Nook, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review and in the British Aesthetica Magazine. She won Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Award and the Grand Prize for the Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Contest.

Author Links:  Website | Goodreads 

Q: What’s inside the mind of a poet?

A: I look at life through the lens of a poet, which means attentiveness, allowing a space in my day for a poem to emerge; to be a poet, for me, means a lot of not-doing; not being busy; lots of walking in nature, sitting under a tree, or in a coffee shop, until “the muse” taps me on the shoulder.

Night Ringing is, basically, my life story, from my childhood, growing up in New York City, my father a former POW under the Japanese, then a prominent physician; my three older sisters, two of whom suffer serious mental illnesses; my parents’ divorce when I was nine; my first marriage, to a Moroccan actor; my second marriage, to a film professor, native of Poland, survivor of the Holocaust; the dissolution of that marriage after twenty years; the raising of our three children, one of whom has autism, as a single mother, after his death; the discovery of my attraction toward women and subsequent lesbian dating experiences.

Q: Tell us why readers should buy NIGHT RINGING.

A: One of the most frequent comments I hear from readers is that they love my writing—clear and direct, it “restores their love for poetry.” Read Night Ringing: you will understand every word, you will learn about the poet’s interesting, varied, life, and you will find a part of yourself reflected back to you in clarity and new understanding.

Q: What makes a good poem.

A: A good poem discovers something new, for the poet and for the reader. It is surprising and exciting, making new connections. A metaphor will do this; comparing the sound of coffee falling into a hopper with the sound of rain, and finding solace in it, for example (see “Coffee Beans”), or lying on your back, floating in the river as a metaphor for watching life, as a train passes overhead; feeling fine even if you look like I’m a corpse!

Q: What is a regular writing day like for you?

A: I need to leave home and sit alone in a coffee shop. I will read poems, either by classic poets or more contemporary ones, until I feel prompted to respond with my own words/story. Or, I will sit outside, and enter consciously into the present moment, noticing whatever is happening around me in nature, the sounds of birds, water passing under a bridge, clouds passing over head, a season changing. A meditative experience.

I don’t usually write much in the afternoon. Mornings are best, because I have the most energy, and the day is new. Of course, there are many exceptions to this. I remember one poem, an award-winner, which I wrote in five minutes. It felt like I was on a journey, propelled forward through the words. And this happened in the afternoon! 

Q: What has writing taught you?

A: Often I write as a way to distance myself from the pressure of reality. When the emotion is too strong to bear, or I can’t make sense of it, until I begin to unravel it, through words. So, the poem is a way through, a way to understand what I am going through. Often or perhaps always I do not know the end of the poem when I begin it… the poem is teaching me something that I did not know. A process of discovery.

And there is great joy. I have often written poems that express sadness, and then felt the joy when it is completed, especially when someone else reads it and responds to it with recognition, recognizing their own despair and their feeling of gratitude for the connection.

Writing itself is the greatest pleasure. That feeling of “getting it;” recently I wrote a poem about an old family photograph. I didn’t know why it was so magnetic to me. Finally, as I described it in words, I realized I was looking at an image of my mom and sisters a few months before my mom divorced my dad a few years before one sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia and the other with some other psychic disorder, and there I was all squirmy and feisty-looking, a little kid with uneven knee socks, and my dad, receiving an award, beaming into the camera. It told the whole story of our family, including my own survivorship.

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