By Teresa Perin
Under the canopy of the ancient maple tree
with its arms lovingly wrapped around me.
We’d have an exclusive club and
we’d only let in the deer and the owl.
My neighbor, the mulberry tree, would
let me feast on her sweet fruit,
staining my fingers dark purple.
If I were a little girl,
I’d stay back in this wild wood
supported by the sturdy trunk of the
giant maple tree.
We’d have a secret word to enter our world
and only tell the fox and the woodpeckers.
I’d reach past the thorns of the raspberry
bush and steal his ripe fruit for a treat.
If I were a little girl
I’d stay in the cooling shade of
the beautiful maple tree
and cry my little girl tears over the
pains of the world, letting the creek
carry away my fears.
The squirrel and frog would keep
my secrets and chatter and sing
a song to cheer me up.
Since I am not a little girl,
I’ll pause beneath the majestic
maple tree and hide away for
only a short time, wishing I
could stay in my secret hideaway,
safe from the worries of the world.
I’d make this my secret hideaway
She lives on a 75 acre farm in central Iowa where she raises has crops, makes her own hay (thankfully), and keeps a variety of animals: chickens, (one lonely little) duck, geese, peafowl, a llama, an ox, two cows, and 45 goats. Her goat Millie even has her own blog. She is Teresa Perin of Razzamadazzle, a writer, a photographer, and all around world class Real Toad follower.
When reading Teresa’s work, one will be amazed at her versatility in form and function. She fearlessly tackles prose and poetry in all forms, weaving in elements of her own experiences to ground the reader with a sense of notability.
This week I learned even more about Teresa when she agreed to subject herself to my inquiries about life on the North Plains.
Izy: First round is on me, what are you having?
Teresa: A glass of my homemade wine. It's really about all I drink anymore.
Izy: I wouldn’t mind sampling some myself! You took some time away from poetry in November to participate in NaNoWriMo. You completed a novel of more than 52,000 words in 20 days....a near deadly pace. Are you happy with the end result? Do you think you will write another novel free from the NaNoWriMo rules? And what was it like to participate in such a rigorous exercise?
Teresa: I loved NaNoWriMo. It's a challenge, a competition against myself and other people I know. I might be a bit overly competitive. The graph to chart my project helped. I'm also highly visual. I think I'm satisfied with the results. I've had a couple of people read it for me. My nephew with the degree in history checked it for historical accuracy, which it passed the test. Then of course, my mother liked it. I have a couple more people reading to get feedback, and then I think I'm ready to move forward, whichever direction that is.
I actually started my second novel a couple weeks ago. I have my own little excel graph to chart my progress, but it's not like the real thing. I like that stress of a deadline and pushing myself. This one is also based on my real life teaching experiences in several placement settings, and it's harder to stay true to that but fictionalize it to protect the innocent and the guilty.
I loved NaNoWriMo. It's not for everyone because it is a lot of work. For me, the story simply told itself. It's not always like that. I also, sadly, am in a teaching position that is consultative and am bored out of my mind most days, so it was a way for me to do something to entertain myself. That really sounds bad.
Izy: Doesn’t sound bad to me, rather it seems restorative and fulfilling. I like to think of your poetry of having those same qualities. They are almost fluid in their nature. You often experiment with forms, free verse, and flash fiction, which is you favorite and which do you find most challenging?
Teresa: I guess I don't really have a preference. I love the challenges and trying new things. I guess some of the harder ones would be your sonnets and ballade: the longer structured poems.
Izy: When you open the newspaper, which section do you read first?
Teresa: Not much of a newspaper reader. With starting my new job this fall, I got a three-month subscription of the local paper. I can honestly say I didn't read a single word. I looked at the cover picture/story, but then I just put them in the cupboard for chicken bedding the next time I get baby birds.
Izy: When it comes to laundry…..separate the whites and colors or take a chance?
Teresa: I am more of an old worn and comfy kind of dresser, so there really isn't any chance if my colors and whites get together, but I do separate them because that's what you're supposed to do.
Izy: I hear you there: sometimes the expected is too banal to rebel against! In language, though there is a bit more freedom….What are your three favorite curse words?
Teresa: Did I mention I tended bar for many years, in a pool hall. I still fall back to that bartender's language when I get irritated. Yea, I've been known to drop the f-bomb. Shit ~ because I tend to have a lot of it on the farm. Hell. Probably could get a more accurate response asking the goats.
Izy: I bet the goats have choice words of their own, too! To you writing feels like....
Teresa: It's an escape from reality or boredom. Or sometimes it's healing. It can be a journey back in time. It's different all the time.
Izy: You have one quarter left: do you select your favorite song on the jukebox or play a round of pinball? (Note there is no scenario where your quarter can somehow buy you infinite quarters or be reused)
Teresa: But if you're obsessive and competitive, that quarter can be used to win more pinball games.
Izy: Well played indeed! What are three things you never write about?
Teresa: I pretty much will write about anything. Politics would not be a favorite topic, and I never write about specific candidates or issues. The one thing that makes me all loopy to write is sex, which is weird because I'm not prudish and I can talk about it. I'm surrounded by it all the time with the animal husbandry, but to write about the physical act makes me horribly uncomfortable. I don't know why. But, I will if it's necessary for the topic. So I don't think there's anything I really would never write about.
Izy: What is your favorite way to spend a Tuesday night?
Teresa: It would have to be a summer night, because I'm not a fan of these winter hours. In the summer, I'm outside on the farm every evening. I love watching the kids play. They get wound up about 7 pm, and they are just hilarious to watch.
Izy: Summer evenings on the farm sound fantastic. Here’s another scenario: You've agreed to throw me a birthday party. Cost is no object. What venue do you choose?
Teresa: A couple of midwest girls. I guess I'd choose a backyard barbecue. Informal and relaxed surrounded by family and close friends. I hope your birthday isn't in January.
Izy: It is in January, but if we have enough homemade wine, a good band and a big enough BBQ pit, it won’t matter! Do you stay up late or rise early?
Teresa: By nature, I'm night person. Loved the hours tending bar. With much training and discipline and goat milking, I have switched my hours. Now I'm more of a morning person. It's still easy on winter break for me to slip into those late night hours.
Izy: I live about 400 miles north of you, and I understand how grueling the “winter hours” can be. It’s dark when you wake up, and it gets dark so early. Let’s explore another dark scenario: you have been selected to be one of the first people to colonize mars. Unfortunately NASA will only allow you to bring one book of poetry (little known fact NASA hates poetry), which poet do you choose?
Teresa: How about an empty notebook for me to fill up? Better yet, I'd take my good old Norton Anthology so I have poems for every mood.
Izy: I think NASA may be accommodating enough to let you bring both, if not you can sneak the notebook in my suitcase. Do you write rough drafts in pen, pencil, or keyboard?
Teresa: Poetry is always pencil in my spiral notebook. I did have to switch to keyboard for the novel.
Izy: What makes a bad poem?
Teresa: I hate to call any poem bad because that is such a subjective term. There are so many different preferences and surely someone will like any given poem. For me personally, I prefer poetry that doesn't make me get out the dictionary and look up every other word. Poetry is about the emotion, and needing the dictionary beside me kind of ruins that.
Izy: You are at the airport and can take any flight for free: where are you going?
Teresa: New York to visit my goat sisters. It's amazing the close relationship I've developed with a couple of my fellow goat-loving bloggers.
Izy: What was your favorite moment of 2012?
Teresa: Overall, this has been a rough year with drought and the effects of the weather on the goats and switching jobs. When I actually got to visit my Goat Sisters. I drove out for the weekend and met them in person. It was like visiting old friends. I'm grateful to my son for taking care of the farm and letting me have my escape.
Izy: What is one question you'd like to ask the toads, and they will respond in their comments?
Teresa: Wow. This is the hardest question. I know different questions I'd ask different toads, but one question for all. Hmm...Okay. For me poetry is all about creating the emotion. What is the most important thing they think poetry should do?