bringing you our chat.
What a perfect match up it was for us – both teachers, one from the northern and one from the southern hemispheres and both passionate about passing on a love of poetry and literature to the youth.
Kim kicked off the chat session:
I've been thinking about the three questions I would like to ask you and I thought I'd start with some simple, obvious ones and we can perhaps work on them together, if that's OK with you.
1. Why is poetry important to you?
2. How are your poems conceived and born
(How does a poem begin; where and how do you write it)?
3. How did you become possessed by the characters from The Tempest?
(The Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays.)
Such great questions to begin a conversation!
I responded with three of my own:
1. I believe you are an educator, as am I.
Has your career as a teacher influenced your approach to writing poetry?
And/Or does being a poet influence the way you teach?
2. Your poetry often puts me in mind of the English lyricists of the
What is it about the bucolic lifestyle that inspires you?
3. How important is it to have an audience for your poetry,
for example online?
Kim was quick to respond:
Although I retired from high school teaching over four years ago, due to illness and overwork, I couldn’t stay away from education for long. I listen to children reading and am a governor at two local federated infant schools. I also volunteer at local libraries, leading Bounce and Rhyme sessions for parents, carers, babies and toddlers, running a Chatterbooks session for older children to explore and chat about books, including poetry, as well as spreading the word about and helping out in library events for children. I think my career as a teacher has made me more aware of poetic techniques and so has certainly influenced my approach to writing poetry. However, being a poet definitely influenced the way I taught, especially creative writing. I was the only teacher in the English department who encouraged pupils to write poetry and submitted their writing to competitions, magazines and anthologies. I also created and edited the school magazine, which was full of pupils’ writing.
|The view from Kim's window|
I grew up in London and spent my late teens and early adulthood in Cologne in Germany. It wasn’t until I moved to Ireland that I discovered the joys of the countryside, which has become so much a part of me since moving to Norfolk twenty six years ago. I can think of nothing more beautiful than watching a day unfold on a Norfolk beach, the Broads, on a walk down a lane or across a field. We have such a variety of birds up here, as well as flora and fauna. I was stunned the first time deer visited our garden and speechless when a doe gave birth under the quince tree! I think I only really experienced the seasons once I left the city, and there was no going back.
The Deer Under the Willow Tree
A swathe of freshly rain-washed green
with sunlight spangles in between,
against this backdrop I can see
a deer under the willow tree.
The creature has a languid gait
as if it’s waiting for its mate;
I only hope it can’t see me,
the deer under the willow tree.
Its eyes are pools of blackest jet
in which a diamond light is set;
a woodland child, its life is free,
the deer under the willow tree
Emerging from a clutch of weeds,
covered with bits of twig and seeds,
a newly born, a fawn I see,
underneath the willow tree.
When I lived in Cologne, I tried a spot of performance poetry, which I found difficult as the response was immediate and I didn’t have time to process it. I gave up on that and stuck to submitting poems to newspapers and magazines, which took ages to give feedback or gave none at all. It wasn’t until I retired that I discovered the online poetry scene, which really appeals to me: not only do people respond in a respectfully critical way but they also interact with each other. I enjoy reading the different styles and the huge variety of prompts and challenges, which get the creative juices flowing. It’s not so much the audience as the feeling of being in it together and, of course, knowing which poems people respond to and which they don’t.
Reading Kim’s questions and her insightful replies to my own really encouraged me to share my experiences:
I can relate to your experiences in the education system, both with the burnout and the inability to step away completely. I admire your interest in library work; getting children to read is one of the greatest challenges we are facing, especially with Generation Z! I am also the only English teacher in my school who takes the writing of poetry seriously, because it is not part of 'The Syllabus' and, therefore, doesn't count. To answer your first question, poetry is important to me because it is an art form which is falling out of fashion. I always tell my students that what an artist does with paint, a sculptor with stone, so a poet does with words, a far more difficult medium to elevate in the eyes of an audience. Yet poetry has humanity as its source: it may be all that stands between us and complete moral and intellectual decay. Please forgive me, if I that seems over-stated but I am passionate about the value of creative writing.
I have never been a city girl, although I grew up in the suburbs of Durban, South Africa. There were gardens to play in and miles of beaches to explore. Now I live in a small town in countryside of Northern KwaZulu-Natal, close to farmlands and the mountains, so I also appreciate the breathing space and slower pace of life. You asked me how my poems are conceived and born. I always find this a difficult question to answer, as I tend to write on the spur of the moment, spend very little time on any one piece and seldom edit or rewrite. Sometimes, words start to line themselves up in my mind. When that happens I have to sit down quickly and jot them down, otherwise I forget what I was trying to say. If I have a particular theme or prompt in mind, I sit down with a word document in front of me and I visualize the poem in pictures. Then I describe what I see. I like the way images compliment poetry but I seldom use a picture to write from (unless specifically writing ekphrasis style poetry). If I use a picture when I post my poem, it will be one I found after the poem was written and then I prefer paintings to photographs.
I began blogging nearly ten years ago, and I was really just creating an online archive of my pieces, working in a complete vacuum until Sherry Blue Sky found me and led me to Poets United. I was so excited about finding a thriving forum for poets to share their work, and in 2010, I became the Creative Manager of our own Imaginary Garden with Real Toads. My hope is that I have made my own contribution to keeping the online community alive because it is so important for writers to receive feedback and to be inspired by the work of others.
You asked me how I came to be possessed by the characters of The Tempest... This came about one year ago, when I was going through a very difficult time in my life, after my health took a turn for the worse and I suffered personal loss in my life. I went through a bout of depression, during which time I felt I had lost my poetic voice. As it happens, I was teaching The Tempest to my Grade 10 class, as I do each year, and I was stirred by dichotomy between Miranda's idealistic view of the world and Caliban's unrepentant anger towards the people and situation he found himself in. Here, I believed, I could explore some of the negativity I was going through, writing in Caliban's voice, and I could find balance by sometimes trying to see things through Miranda's eyes. It helped me to rediscover the brave new world and make peace with all that had happened to me in what remains the worst year of my life. In this regard, I would like to return to your first question, regarding the value of poetry. I believe that on a personal level, poetry can save a person's life, as can poets. I can list several poets I have come to know over the years of our journeying together, who literally kept me afloat, ensuring that I did not give up writing, and that I did not give up on my own life.
Kim quickly noticed several similarities in our polar opposite worlds!
We are on opposite sides of the world and I can see similarities!
I agree with you that poets paint and sculpt with words; it is not at all over-stated and I think many teachers are passionate about creative writing but the powers that be won’t let us explore it in education.
It’s amazing that you grew up in Durban – a great uncle of mine spent a lot of time in Durban and I have a precious postcard he sent my grandmother before I was born. I love to find out about places I’ve never heard of and your town sounds wonderful.
Another thing we have in common is writing on the spur of the moment, not spending much a time on a poem and seldom editing or rewriting, although I’ve had to do that for submissions that have been accepted in anthologies. I also experience words forming in my mind and need to write them down before they disappear. I’ve even woken up with a fully formed poem or story in my head and leaped out of bed to get it down on paper – not once but several times!
I'm so pleased that Shakespeare saved your life, Kerry.
After this amazing chat, I felt again the sense of joy I get whenever I connect with a poet through this most remarkable space we are so fortunate to share.
In my twenties, I was lucky enough to travel to the UK, Europe and the US. It has now become a goal of mine to travel again. I would love the opportunity to meet some of my poet friends on these journeys.
As for spur of the moment, that is how I write. People often ask me where I get an idea, or what inspired me to write something, and I find it hard to explain a process with almost no structure or planning behind it.
|A gift from|
Lately, I have branched out into what for me is the unknown territory of Instagram. I was inspired to venture into the realm of sharing 'notebook' poetry, which I write with an old-fashioned pen dipped into a bottle of ink, having been a long-time admirer of Magaly's posts. I have discovered a newfound joy in working with some of my older pieces, and writing in ink has forced me to slow down and take my time with a poem. The Instagram platform has renewed my joy in writing, coming at a time when I believed I had written my best and, maybe, final poem. So, for the present, I am still putting pen to paper, and calling myself a poet.
Find me @skyloverpoetry
This was a conversation which could have gone on indefinitely, and we were both sorry to have to wrap it up, but the best thing about it is that we have more to talk about on another day.