Poet Christopher J. Jarmick: Thoughts on Writing and Dealing with Inner Darkness

What do you call someone who opens an independent brick & mortar bookstore in this age of e-everything?

bookt

A fool?

fool

An optimist?

optimist

A bit of both?

 

fool plus (2)

NOPE. Not at all.

I call him a super hero!

hero

Christopher J. Jarmick is not only a marvelous poet, but a owner of the wonderful BookTree in Kirkland, Washington.

booktree

Click this Link to go to BookTree website 

And I had the good fortune to publish his incredibly passionate collection Not Aloud with MoonPath Press.

9781936657193-Perfect-DRAFT.indd

A little more about Chris:

Christopher J. Jarmick is owner of BookTree, Kirkland’s independent book store. Creative and Freelance Writer, he’s author of Not Aloud (2015 MoonPath Press).

Visit him on his blog, PoetryIsEverything

Click this Link to Chris’ Poetry is Everything blog

jarmick

Before I get to the interview with Chris, I can’t help but post a favorite poem from Not Aloud.

CemetaryMeme

First question, Chris–

What brought you to poetry?

It happened in stages.  First Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and Dr. Seuss.  Rhymes were fun.

 garden

Then I discovered Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti when I was about 11.  I thought this is amazing.

This is poetry?

 ferlinghetti

Who is this guy?

And getting answers meant going to the library back in those pre-internet/Google days and asking questions.

 library

I learned about the ‘beats’ and this amazing poem called “Howl”:

 howl

I tried to understand more about these poems and poets and I became interested in their influences Blake, Baudelaire, Rexroth,Whitman (plus many many others and noticed some anti-war poetry from Denise Levertov and others).

 peace

I started writing poetry and got a poem published in a national magazine when I was 12 (Dear Troubled Youth).

 I must be a writer and poet, right?

And so I was bit.

 poet

I realized how poorly poetry was taught in schools (most of the time) and I would have soured to it if I had not made my discoveries and done research on my own.

-Mark Twain.

What is the best advice you received as a writer?

 Read.

 Read everything and remain curious.

Read, observe, and listen.

how

You want to be open and truthful and develop your b.s. detector.

 ask

If you don’t like reading very much, you aren’t going to be a writer worth reading.

 king

‘Write every day’ is also very good advice.

Too many resist this one.

  bradbury

Write fast and edit later.

If you can’t just write, get a prompt and write to the prompt and challenge yourself.

 edit

You learn more by failing than by being successful.

 fail

So fail often (hopefully in private).

It is important to also accept that it is okay to skip a day or two of writing.

Forgive yourself.  But no excuses.  No laziness.

 not trying

Develop the habit, the writing addiction.

 Get over yourself and write even if it is junk.

 You absolutely must read every day however.

 Read more, write often and accept that most of what you write will be awful.

 good

What is the least helpful advice you received?

 “Write what you know.”

Terrible.

 It should be:

Write and when you discover you don’t know what you are writing about—research, learn and then write some more.

 You don’t know, what you don’t know and you are always learning so why would you stick to writing what you know?

Zora

Writing is always a journey and journeys are supposed to be meaningful and that means you are learning as you journey; sharing and teaching as you write.

 As you experience life of course write about that, but let it lead you to new paths and new discoveries.

 journey

“Find your voice” is another bit of supposedly helpful advice that is also problematic.

 You already have a voice and while you absolutely need to explore and discover as much about yourself and therefore develop your voice, it is already a part of you.

 It’s the voice that is insisting you write.

 voltaire

You can write in different voices, you can be a mimic, you can stretch and should stretch until you are uncomfortable and then stretch some more.

 The true voice that you already have will tell you what is b.s. and what is honest if you remember to listen.

 hemingway

If you read and listen more than you write you’ll have an authentic voice– nothing to ‘find’, it’s already within.

voice listen

Most creative people go through difficult or dark times.

What helps bring you back up when you are down?

 Sheesh.

 If you get to your 30s or beyond and are a sensitive creative sort of spirit, then you have developed some coping mechanisms that are working.

 Managing frustration, foul moods, self-doubts and other things would be a full-time job if I didn’t develop a way to take a quick time-out.

 Get the hell out of my own head.

 head

Stop blaming others.  Fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, abusers… the blame game won’t let you heal.

 point

Deep breathing exercises a couple of times per day (5 minutes is often enough time) and some positive self-talk that isn’t too sweet or insipid is necessary.

All you have control over is how you will deal with the day.

In the photo a beach in Zanzibar at sunset where there is an inscription on the sand "Breathe Deeeply".

Let good things happen.

Let the good in.

There is also good around you that is yours for the asking.

So ask and take some of the good.

 see good

When darkness closes in I wonder if there is someone I have not forgiven that I am allowing to take control of my mood.

 You must forgive and stop carrying more weight around than you need to.

 easier (2)

There will be times when you might have to fake it for the benefit of someone near you that doesn’t need your dark mood.

 pain

The most difficult person to forgive is yourself but you must learn how to be better at that every day.

 forgive

There are some people that I used to spend time with who were very negative and overly critical.

 I can be negative and overly-self-critical without anyone’s help so obviously I learned that life is too short to spend too much time with very negative, ‘mean’ people.

 Most of these people weren’t close friends so it’s common sense to limit my time with them.

I don’t have to avoid them, its simply a matter of not spending too much time with them.

  negative people

One can also escape with a movie, or a book or by eating a little too much ice cream or playing music waaaay too loud.

art

I learned by my mid 20s that killing yourself slowly through drugs or alcohol is just another way of wasting time and being irresponsible.

It creates more problems and more darkness.

And too much escape will only create a super storm that will knock you on your ass.

 drug

Sometimes I recognize a dark cloud coming in and I can minimize its visit.

 I sometimes can be affected and even infected by my perception of someone else’s mood.

It may not even be completely real and I take it upon myself.  Foolish.

I tell myself it might make me a better writer but it doesn’t help my balance.

 down

Having a variety of ways to deal with the challenges is important.

Sometimes my methods are successful.  Sometimes it is being in the writing zone, writing away for hours at a time that keeps me somewhat sane.

 hard

What do you want others to know about your poetry?

 It is an exploration, a journey, a specific observation.

rumi

 It doesn’t take itself too seriously and the poem itself is not sacred—behind the scenes the act of writing the poem is sacred (often)—but you do not need to ever give a damn about that.

 playful

My poem is alive.

My poems (most of them) are cats, dogs, chickens, or insects.

cats

I would like the poem to allow you to consider or ponder or explore something differently.

 Many poems have done this for me and so I want my poems to do it for others.

 I would love if my poem assists you and what I think I mean by that is

a) it connects to you perhaps giving you a little more confidence or helps someone to feel a little less alone, a little less crazy

b) it inspires you

c) it makes you smile

d) it resonates because of how it states something or because of a meaning you see in the words

e) it makes you uneasy, it bothers you or makes you a little angry

f) bottom line: it compels you to react and do something (maybe even write).

 eyes

Some of the poems I write are fun, even show off a little, some are satiric, sarcastic and hopefully done with wit and respect for language.

 I hope a poem or two of mine will make the reader (or listener) think, okay that’s a little different AND it’s poetic.

 fun

A writer reads.

A writer writes.

 A poet as the word origin dictates: creates.

(Poesis~Greek word for creation is root of poetry).

 create

Here’s another poem by Christopher J. Jarmick:

 

LEARNING FROM LEONARD COHEN 

 

You learn

about best defenses;

keep tears back

with a smile;

never leave the heart out

upon your sleeve.

 

Some do get older

with vulnerable hearts.

The sparkle

in an eye proves

a passionate intense life.

 

It is a blessing,

a curse.

It is brave, very

foolish, human.

 

If you have met

a few who understand,

you are rich.

 

If your heart has been broken

more than twice

and still gives

you are living your life

very well indeed.

BROKEN

Click this link to buy NOT ALOUD from IndieBound

9781936657193-Perfect-DRAFT.indd

Click this link to buy NOT ALOUD from Amazon

Thanks to everyone for joining Chris and I here.

Wishing everyone brighter days filled with poetry and joy.

creativity

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Poet Patricia Fargnoli Talks Writing, Love of Words, Advice

Patricia Fargnoli is simply one of the finest poets writing today.

And Pat’s an important person in my life.

I’m honored to host her on my blog. 

pat smile

Patricia Fargnoli, a former New Hampshire Poet Laureate, has published five award-winning books and three chapbooks.

Awards include: The May Swenson Book Award, The NH Literary Book Award, The Sheila Mooton Book Award, Foreword Magazine Silver Poetry Book Award, a runner up for the Jacar Press Prize, and a residency at Macdowell.

duties then winter

She has published over 300 poems in such journals as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Harvard Review et. al.

Pat is a retired social worker and psychotherapist, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

She lives with her cat, Rusty-Griffin in Walpole, NH.
rusty

I had the good fortune to become a student in the poetry classes she taught in New Hampshire.

keene

Pat was not only a marvelous teacher, but she took an interest in my work, and became my mentor and supporter and cheerleader.

mentor

And ultimately, Pat became my dear friend.

I will never be able to truly express the depth of my gratitude.

Pat’s belief in me is a part and parcel of every success I’ve had with publishing my work.

candle

Without further ado, Patricia Fargnoli:

Thank you to Lana Ayers for featuring my book, Hallowed: New & Selected Poems on her blog.

This month is the one-year anniversary of its publication.

Pat and book Photo on 8-28-17 at 2.41 PM #2

Health issues and issues of aging (I am 80) have prevented me from doing readings or publicizing the book the way I would have wanted to.

So I am so grateful to Lana for her interest in this feature.

How did you come to poetry?

Poetry became an important part of my life very early, largely because of the wonderful Aunt Nell who took care of me after my parents died.

dead

She had been a kindergarten teacher for 40 years and loved children.

Each night, before bed, she would read to me: all the children’s classics, and books of poetry –“Silver Pennies,” “Peter Patter’s Owl,” “The 100 Greatest American Poems.”

silver

Thus, the rhythms and images of poems became part of me…as did the love of poetry.

I wrote my first poem at age seven on Mother’s Day.

It was for my mother and I asked Aunt Nell to somehow send it to her.

sun

Then, in high school, I wrote (very bad) poems for the school newspaper.

bad

I don’t remember writing during most of the years of my marriage and motherhood, but I never lost interest in poetry.

It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I began to write seriously.

I somehow fell into a graduate poetry class with Brendan Galvin at Central Connecticut College and took it several times.

bg

Brendan, who is a remarkable poet, and not easy to please, taught me to write well. I was determined to become a good poet and worked hard.

There were seven other women in that class; we all became friends and, after we stopped taking the class, we continued to meet and critique each other’s work.

support (2)

Still, the group is meeting, 35 years later.

For financial reasons, I’ve never been able to get an MFA (though I wanted to).

I did, however, attend The Frost Place Poetry Conference and the Bennington Summer conference both of which brought me into contact with well-known poets and expanded my poetry knowledge and world.

The_Frost_House

Most importantly, I studied at Bennington with Mary Oliver who recognized the value of my work

and became a mentor and supporter of me.

mary

Her belief in me has been a lifelong motivator for me

and I am enormously grateful to her.

mary advice

My first book was published when I was sixty-two.

nec

[I can’t help but interject here folks — First book at age 62!

Winner of the  May Swenson Award!

This fact uplifts me greatly coming so late to fiction.

There’s still hope for me & for all of us late bloomers.]

sharon

What is the process like creating a new & selected works? Has your relationship to the earlier poems shifted? Have you discovered anything new in the process?

This is the one year anniversary of the publication of Hallowed: New & Selected Poems 

so it is a good time to reflect on the process of creating it.

book

I knew that I wanted to have a volume that recognized my previous books while it also included the new work I’ve written since Winter was published.

And I wanted to do it by my 80th birthday so as to recognize that scary (to me) landmark.

set

I contacted my previous publishers for permission to use poems from those books and Jeffrey Levine at Tupelo Press said that they wanted to publish it since they had published two of my previous books and considered me to be part of “The Tupelo Family.”

tupelo

The process of putting the manuscript together was quite easy: I simply chose the best of the new poems I’d written…24 of them, and then arranged them as I would arrange the poems in any book… paying attention especially to the first and last poems but also to the arc of the them and how they connected to each other.

apple

Choosing the poems from previous books was even easier. I knew that I wanted a representative sample from each book, but didn’t want a lot of poems from each book…so I went through each front to back, choosing poems that seemed to encompass the themes of that book and that had gotten recognition through audience appreciation and/or publication…plus those that were personal favorites.

fave

A friend pointed out that I left many strong poems behind and I guess I did but I didn’t want the book to become too long.

behind

What I learned was that some of my themes are lifelong themes: especially grief and loss, how to find meaning and beauty in nature and life, those consolations.

UrnV2

I also recognized that the poems of the first book, Necessary Light, tend to be more narrative than those of later books which tend first toward my lyrical and later to more and more meditative as I aged and began to be more concerned with issues of aging and with the search for spirituality and meaning in a world where there are no (for me at least) certain answers.

Fragmenting

Amazingly, when I had finished the choosing and arranging, the poems from all the books seem to become a cohesive book….something that both surprised and delighted me.

Beautiful sunrise over volcanoes in guatemala

Could you share a poem from the new collection?

To an Old Woman Standing in October Light

Better to just admit it, time has gotten away from you, and yet
here you are again, out in your yard at sunset, a golden light draping itself

across the white houses and mowed lawns,
the house-tall maple, green and rust in ordinary light,

has become a leaf-embossed, gold globe, the brook runs molten,
the clouds themselves glow gold as the heaven you used to imagine.

Do you know that your own figure, as Midas-touched as a Klimt painting,
has become part of that landscape falling around you,

almost indistinguishable from the whole of it–
as if eternity itself were being absorbed into your mortal body?

Or is it that your body, out of time, is merged into eternity?
You have been looking for a reason for your continued existence,

with faith so shaky it vibrates like a plucked wire.
Such moments of glory must be enough. As you search them out again, again,

your disappearing holds off for awhile. But see how, even in this present,
as you stand there, the past flies into the future seamlessly,

the way, above you, the crows are winging home again, calling to each other,
vanishing above the trees into the night-gathering sky.

crow

[Buy Patricia Fargnoli’s book by clicking this link!]

How did this poem come about?

This is the first poem of the book.

The “you” in the poem is, myself as I stand at the precipice of old old age, but also it reaches out to the reader who may be also dealing with issues of aging and meaning.

I wanted to write a poem that used beautiful language and light and spirituality.

nature sky clouds sunset golden night wallpaper 1920x1080 Elegant A flock of birds flying ahead the sunset birds flying

I don’t remember much of how I wrote it but I think I must have been in that poem-space where images and words come almost unbidden.

PinskyV2

What advice were you given that was the most helpful when you were first showing your poems to others (in classes or workshops or critique groups? 

It’s been 45 years since I first began showing others my poems and my memory is not that long.

I think the most important advice I could have been given is to be quiet and listen without getting defensive but, at the same time; to consider carefully all that is said.

listen

Always remember that the poet is the final authority (and decider) about their own work.

choose

Any really bad advice that didn’t help at all, and if so, how did you overcome it?

As for bad advice: negative critiques especially when given forcefully by someone who is sure their opinion is “right” have only left me upset afterwards.

These are not supportive and can be very difficult to shake these off.

I have left critiquing workshops where this happens frequently.

STRONG

Fortunately, I have been a member for many years of a very supportive and helpful in-person workshop and also an online one where I trust the feedback I receive.

success
What advice do you have for poets who are struggling in some way–either with getting poems written or with getting published?

I know this is said often but it is so true: read, read, read…all the poetry (both American and International) you can get your hands on.

read

And study the poems that you are most drawn to, not just as a reader, but as a student learning from their techniques and moves, their language and strategies.

learn

Also read fiction and non-fictions, read magazines, let all that you read become food for your own imagination.

read every

Make writing a priority in your life, make time on a regular basis to do it even if you think you have nothing to say.

priority

Study the journals before you send work to them in order to decide where you own work might fit.

lit mags

Build a poetry community.

Some poets are loners, I, myself, am an introvert, but I have found that it’s important for me to have a tribe of poets, people I can turn to to talk about poetry, share successes, even moan about failures.

tribe (2)

Thank you, Pat for bringing your beautiful, wise, and enlightening words to my blog.

Thank you readers for coming along.

Please check out more on Patricia Fargnoli here: [Patricia’s website]

WatchingLightV2

 

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