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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WEB WEDNESDAY - PAULA WANKEN

For this Web Wednesday we have chosen someone who considers herself a neophyte in the poetic world. Her expressive flair and viewpoint is a refreshing journey through her eyes. This is Paula Wanken.

We asked Paula to share a poem she feels best expresses her writing, and tell us why she chose that particular piece. Here is her response.

a loss of knowing

she rides
with cards in the spokes
and colorful strips of plastic fluttering from the handlebars
tangles of long, brown hair flying freely and wildly behind her
for the moment
all is right with the world

she reads
sitting carefree in the pasture
resting comfortably against Dotty, the spotted pig
lost in a world of Ma & Pa on the prairie
for the moment
all is right with the world

she writes
in the corner of the classroom
using her best handwriting to tell the story
even drawing pictures to match
for the moment
all is right with the world

she hides
in silence she protects herself from being known
feelings are pushed aside
passions have died
for too long
all is not right with the world

when did it occur?
this loss of play
this loss of passion
this loss of knowing
when did she forget who God made her to be?

she writes
in the quiet apartment
her cats curled up, sleeping soundly next to her
she listens to the heart of God
while tapping out her words on her computer she remembers
and once again, for the moment,
all is right with the world

2011-01-06
P. Wanken


dedicated, with deep gratitude,
to the One who created me
and the one who has helped me remember

This is one of the first poems I wrote, and I’ve not chosen it because of how it expresses my writing, but who I am. You’ll note in this poem that my early days in life were carefree; full of fun and creativity. And then “life happened.” It has taken a long time to find my way back to knowing who I was created to be: a writer. I am meant to put my words onto paper (or a computer screen).

~~~~~~~

Paula is relatively new to us, and considers herself a newbie to the world of poetry. From this “newbie,” the following flowed, and afforded the title of her blog, “echoes from the silence.”

for years
thoughts have gone unspoken
my voice, unheard
i have longed to put words together
to speak, unhindered
yet
when words escape me
i am left in silence.
by writing
my thoughts find words
and when words escape me
they are found in
echoes from the silence.

These poignantly lovely and inspirational words introduce us to the poet’s blog. Let us introduce you to the poet, herself.

  1. Paula, your “echoes from the silence” seems to have been inspired by something deep inside you. Can you share with us highlights from the road that brought you here?

First of all, Marie and Walt, thank you for this incredible opportunity. I am not joking when I say this: when I was reading your interview with Barbara, I thought to myself, “I’m glad I’m such a newbie—it will be a long time before I ever have to think of how I would answer questions like that!” That you would want to hear from me—so soon in this journey that I am on—is truly an honor.

Yes, “echoes from the silence” was indeed inspired. I wrote it in early January, a couple of weeks after I started blogging.

When I created my blog in mid-December 2010, I was using a different hosting site. However, after exploring a friend’s WordPress site, I decided to move over. When I did, my friend encouraged me to pick a different blog name than what I was originally using. Brainstorming with him, we came up with “when words escape,” which is in my blog address. But WordPress had a second place for a “title” to appear.

I had only been writing for a couple weeks, and still was not sure of my purpose/goal for blogging. I looked back over what I’d written so far and realized I had been silent for a long time. Yet those years of silence were filled with words that had never escaped. Words I had not spoken—nor written. Writing them now—now that they are escaping—makes them feel a bit like echoes…echoes from the silence. That is where the name came from, which then inspired the poem.

  1. As noted above, you consider yourself a newbie to the world of poetry. How long have you been writing, and what “prompted” you *winkwink* to publicly participate in the Poetic Asides April Poem-a-Day Challenge?

“How long have I been writing?” Hmmm…do my annual Christmas letters count!? J

“Newbie,” indeed! Until I started my blog, I had written only one poem in my adult life—which was only two months prior! And because I grew up in a very small farming community in the middle of Iowa, with an English teacher who had already retired (yet stayed working, if you know what I mean), my English/literature/creative writing classes through high school were limited to grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and one research paper! No real study of literature or poetry. No creative writing. The closest I came to a “form” of writing? Diagramming sentences! J (Do they even do that in school anymore?)

All of that emphasis on vocabulary and sentence structure has helped me in my work (I am an administrative assistant), so it wasn’t for naught, as I have had to write numerous business documents over the years. And of course, my Christmas letters! J Colleagues and friends have suggested I “write more.” However, to me, “writing” meant writing stories. A book. I would think, “Me? Write a book?? I have nothing to say!” So I would shrug them off with a chuckle at the thought.

Yet somehow the suggestion would resonate deep within me somewhere. The kind of resonance that lasts a while, taking its time to work out of your system. And just when it was nearly out of my subconscious thought, it would come around again. Yet I remained silent.

With the advent of blogging, my interest was piqued. I had worked for many years in a ministry setting and the missionaries I knew were making great use of blogs to keep their supporters and family and friends updated on their work: a great purpose for a blog. But I didn’t feel I had a “purpose” to write anything. And I still had the thought of “I have nothing to say.”

Then along came my friend and his blog. It was a collection of random thoughts and observations, with a smattering of poetry mixed in for flavor. I was inspired. I thought: “I can do that. I can be random. I don’t have to include poetry, but I can write about observations or things I ponder.”

I was literally surprised by the fact that one of the first times I sat down to write something, it was a poem that showed up on my computer screen. And I liked it! I would look at the poem and re-read it and think: “I did that!”

As poems came more frequently (and were being tagged as “poems” on my blog), I started getting traffic…and people started commenting! I thought, “Who are these people and how did they find my poems?!” (And then I learned what “tagging” does!)

It was through the process of surprise visitors to my blog and paying them return visits that I discovered the world of “prompts.” The first couple sites were Three Word Wednesday and Theme Thursday. Then I found Sunday Scribblings. Thanks to the encouragement from the likes of Jingle, Altonian, Old Egg, Sheilagh Lee, Jae Rose, LadyNimue, and many others, those became my designated poem-writing days. Other days were spent writing random observations and ponderings.

But the prompts continued to call to me. And I hunted for more. And boy did I hit the mother lode toward the end of March when I stumbled upon something called “NaPoWriMo.” (“What in the heck is THAT!?” I wondered.) And I found out…and I found Poetic Asides. Hungry for daily prompts, I jumped in with both feet!

There were many days in April when I was sure that I had lost my mind and wondered how I got in so deep over my head…but I was not about to back down from the PAD challenge!

As an aside, I had a conversation with my mom recently; I told her about my blogging and new interest in writing poetry. Her reply? “I always knew you would be a writer. You were always writing stories when you were young.” (I don’t remember her ever telling me that before now.) So…I guess I started writing early, but it didn’t follow me out of elementary school. It just went dormant waiting for a re-start.

  1. “echoes from the silence” attracts foot traffic and comments that would make most poetry bloggers jealous. Are you willing to share your secret to success with the rest of us?

Most days I wonder, myself! I really am quite astounded. But blessed.

As I’ve pondered this question, I think it would be the fact that I frequent the prompt sites. And the poetry/writing community is very generous with their time and attention to what I have gleaned to be the “golden rule” of online poetry blogging: reciprocal visits and encouraging words.

  1. Some of your best work seems to rise from moments of a melancholy muse. Is this a correct analysis? If so, does writing help lift the blues?

One little gem was written to a “Carry On Tuesday” prompt:

Little I ask, my wants are few ~ a day without tears, maybe two?

As I often point out, I adore strong messages portrayed by few words. You certainly captured this nicely in this Oliver Wendell Holmes-inspired Monostitch.

Because I am so new to writing poetry, there is still SO much for me to learn. I know so little about form and structure ( yes, I just Googled “monostitch!”), style and voice. I’ve just been writing, writing, writing. And my work has been reflective of my day-to-day life and experiences. The joys…and more recently, the pains. It’s where I’m at, so it’s what is reflected in my poetry.

I’ve gained some incredible friends through this online community. Those who have traveled this path of poetry (and life) longer than I. Their insights, encouragement, and challenges have helped me grow as a writer. So…has my best work been a product of growth? Or the melancholy muse? Or both? I think both. However, I do look forward to discovering whether or not I can write from a similar depth of JOY one day.

  1. And speaking of few words, I see you participate in “A River of Stones” (http://ariverofstones.blogspot.com/). Please tell us a bit about this, and how you see your small stones contributing to this river.

One of the poets I’ve met online (Margo Roby) I actually had the pleasure of meeting in person. She posted on one of her blog entries that she was passing through my city for a couple weeks of vacation. After exchanging some emails, we decided to meet for dinner. It was during that meal I learned of “A River of Stones.” Many people making “small observations” and writing about them. I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I felt like it would be a good opportunity for me to write something that was NOT from a prompt. I decided it would be good practice for me. As for contributing to the river…just like anyone else who is writing small stones, being a part of increasing awareness of the world around us is a good thing.

  1. Your faith is evident in your responses above, as well as on your blog site. Do you consider yourself a woman of faith, and what role does that play in your work?

Most definitely. My faith has gotten me through some difficult times in life…which in turn builds my faith in knowing I will also be able to get through whatever lies ahead of me.

As for the role of faith in my work – it is my hope that my faith is such a natural part of me, it will be seen woven throughout my work. As I said at the outset of this interview, I believe I was created to, among other things, be a writer. With the gifts and abilities God has given me to do so, I want my work to honor Him and be an encouragement to others.

  1. Who is your favorite poet, and what is it about their work that attracts you?

This question is really hard for me because my experience with poetry is so limited. No one ever really taught me about poetry. Whenever it was briefly touched upon in class, my answers about what the poems were about were always “wrong.” I didn’t understand poetry—so I chose not to read it. So for a favorite famous poet? I will refrain from choosing based on my limited exposure.

However, that doesn’t mean I have not come to have favorites! Many of them are probably reading this interview. They are the people I have met through blogs like Poetic Bloomings. I cannot pick just one, and I shouldn’t name any for fear of leaving someone out who deserves mention, but I will anyway:

· Mike Patrick (my new big brother, for his mastery of metrical rhyme!)

· Mr. Walker [Richard] and De Jackson (for their mastery of free verse)

· Laurie Kolp and Kim Nelson (for their consistency in writing as women of faith)

· Viv Blake, Margo Roby and Elizabeth Crawford (for their commitment to growing as writers and encouraging others along the way)

· Tilly Bud (for her amazing ability to say so much in so few words)

· Amy Barlow Liberatore and Ron [Scrambled, Not Fried] (for their ability to see, and then write from, unique perspectives)

· Andy Sewina (for his ability to write acrostic anagrams)

· Henry Clemmons (for his incredible gift of matching image to words)

· Pamela Sayers (for her beautiful use of metaphor)

· Mary Kling and Judy Roney (for their examples of “prompt writing” through NaPoWriMo, and beyond!)

· Charles Burbank (for the depth of his thinking)

· Gordon Bowman (for his stark honesty)

· …the list could really go on and on!

I have so much to be thankful for in learning from the varied examples of such fine poets (I have links to most of these poets on my blog), who are ALL famous in my book!


But I would be remiss not to include another group in my mentions: the purveyors of prompts. They are in a class all their own! To have been influenced so early in my writing journey by the likes of Robert Lee Brewer (Poetic Asides), Rob Kistner (Writer’s Island), Brenda Warren (The Sunday Whirl), more recently the contributors at We Write Poems and Poets United, and of course the two of you here at Poetic Bloomings!

  1. What are your own, personal goals for your poetry?

First and foremost, to continue to learn and grow. Three or four times in the past week alone, I have heard some variation of: “You have to know the rules before you can break the rules.” I have much to learn!

I also believe a part of the process of learning is to see where I can go. Recently I received a gentle nudge from a fellow blogger, encouraging me to begin looking at submitting my work. I chose a few of my pieces and sent them off to a couple places she recommended. I really have no idea if it will lead to anything, but thought I should at least give it a go!

Another goal, as I’ve already mentioned, is that my poetry would somehow be an encouragement to others.

And finally, to continue to just have fun with it!

  1. There has been a conversation among some of us about what constitutes “success” for a poet. How would you answer this question?

A year ago, writing (anything!) was nowhere on my radar. Had you told me then that I would be answering interview questions today about my poetry blog? Me, writing? Poetry, no less? And someone would be interviewing me about it?? I would never have believed you.

So…for this very moment, “success” is: being acknowledged for doing what God has given me an ability to do.

However, even before this request to be interviewed, I was feeling the success of being a poet. I have been able to string words together in such a way that they convey something of myself, yet still have the ability to resonate with another. It’s an exhilarating feeling that has kept my fingers on my keyboard, tapping out another…and another.

  1. If you could tell the world only one thing about yourself, what would you want us to know?

You mean besides all I have already shared? Or: one thing, period?

I suppose it doesn’t matter which one, because the answer is still the same: All that I am and all that I do is because of our awesome Creator.

Oh…and I have two cats, Tigger and Lucy, who keep me company while I write.

32 comments:

  1. A pleasure to "meet" you. Lucky for us that your friend brought you to blogging, and that your blog knew you were a poet, even if you didn't . ("nothing to say" stopped me from writing for over 30 years) Let's hear it for the Prompters!

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  2. Marie, I want to thank you for bringing Paula into our midst as the visitor in the chair. This was such a marvelous interview.

    Paula, I want you to know how much of an inspiration you've been to me today and how much I enjoy your work. You may be new to this world of writing, but you've claimed a spot in this field. I look forward to seeing what you do in future. Take care and God bless.

    Claudette

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  3. a great interview thank you for being so candid.

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  4. Wonderful interview! Thanks, Paula, for sharing yourself with us - both in poetry and in your responses here. An inspiration!

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  5. It is a lovely interview. I felt like you were sitting across from me :)

    margo

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  6. Paula, thanks for an insightful interview, and your honesty. Keep writing.

    Pamela
    btw thanks for the mention.

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  7. From the first poem of Paula’s I read, I knew she had a spark most poets don’t. She has the ability to display her passion across the page in unconventional forms, nuanced word combinations, and with subtle layers of meanings which grab the reader and hold on. To paraphrase someone whose name escapes me, she has it, whatever it is. As she continues growing as a poet, adding to her considerable abilities, she will become a true poetry force. I look forward to reading her poems for years to come. I am honored she calls me her big brother.

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  8. I love Paula (SHE is an inspiration!) and this wonderfully personal and unique interview (which is one of the things I love about Poetic Blooming) has given me a deeper glimpse into who she really is. The opening piece really hit home. I can relate in so many ways... except that I have two dogs, Jake and Snowy, who keep me company.

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  9. What a wonderful tribute to both Paula and this writing community in which we all participate.
    Thank you, Marie and Walt for all that you do.
    Thank you, Paula, for your kindness.

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  10. When I first encountered Paula's writing and she called herself a "newbie," I told her, "Keep 'em coming, hon - you've got it!" That indefinable itch of the Holy Spirit, the muse, however each person defines it - the feeling that one MUST write. Poetry, prose, music.

    Paula is unafraid to identify herself as Christian. I say this because the word has become intermingled with negative, political overtones, homophobia, etc. Paula is a follower of the Jesus I relate to: That it's all about love, understanding, and daring to explore life in all its complexity and beauty and, occasionally, cruelty.

    Marie, you are a gem for getting this together. I hadn't been hipped to your new site - missed it, sorry, but hope I can think up something that will match your theme, the upbeat side of life. In other words, I'll wait for a fun, manic day, LOL.

    Thanks, Marie and Walt, and to the wonderful Paula, BRAVA! Amy

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  11. Oh, and thanks so much for mentioning my name. I was flattered and encouraged to see that. Blessings to all, A.

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  12. @ Barbara ~ the pleasure is mine. And yes! "Yay prompters!" :)

    @ Claudette ~ so glad something of my work/words has inspired. Thank you for your kind words.

    @ Sheilagh ~ thank you. And thank you for being one of my early and consistent visitors. You've been an encouragement!

    @ Andrew ~ you set the pace for these interviews. Thank YOU. And thank you for your kind words.

    @ margo ~ your comment made me smile...I wish we were back at that table! We will be again, one day. Thanks for everything!

    @ Pamela ~ thank you. And yes...I will keep writing! :) (Oh...and you're welcome!)

    @ Mike ~ what can I say? I couldn't have a better cheerleader than I've found in you! And...who wouldn't want a big brother that can write poetry, looks out for his little sister, and can shoot a gun. ;) (By the way..."unconventional forms?" That's a great line! Sounds much better than "I made it up!")

    @ Laurie ~ thank you for your words of encouragement and nudges. I'm looking forward to when we can get together! :)

    @ Kim ~ I'm so glad you said that...because I really did want my responses to this interview to highlight the community of poets. I have found such inspiration in all of you!

    @ Amy ~ thank you for you kind words...here and through the past months! You've been a great encouragement. I'm GLAD to be able to mention you and your work...AND to call you friend. :)

    And...Marie & Walt...thank you again for this opportunity. This "newbie" is blessed by your encouragement and affirmation of me and my work. Bless you both.

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  13. What a beautiful interview/exchange between two beautiful people. Great interview Marie Elena and wow, Paula... I am honored to know you a bit better now. I'm wishing you all the best in all of your poetic and life goals.

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  14. Wonderful interview and enjoyed getting to know all of you better. Paula, I write from a personal space, so call what I do personal poetry. Have a bit of a hang-up about the definition "confessional poetry." And even after nearly thirty years of writing, I still think of myself as a beginner. Natalie Goldberg has some great things to say about the practice of "Beginner Mind," and I agree with her about that practice. It brings a freshness to anyone's perspective.

    Thank you for mentioning my name among your list. I feel that everyone on the circuit is a teacher and love what I have been learning. So, from one Beginner to another, congratulations and by all means, keep following your own sense of what is right for you. Salute!

    Elizabeth

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  15. "Web Wednesday" was Walt's invention, and he just lets me run with it. As he often says, Poetic Bloomings is all about promoting YOU. These interviews are my favorite part of sharing this site with Walt. Besides reading the wonderful poems you all post, of course. ;)

    Paula, thanks again!

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  16. Marie Elena, thank you for bringing Paula into some well deserved limelight. Paula, you have highlighted an important truth about this community - we all learn from each other, support each other, treat each other as real rather than 'virtual' friends. I could hardly believe it when you owned up, over at Margo's site, to being a beginner poet. I first met you over at Poetic Asides during Napo (I think) and looked on your work as mature, capable writing (sorry if that sounds dull - your work is absolutely the opposite of that!)

    Thanks for the mention.

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  17. @ Michael ~ thank you for your kind words...and for your encouragement here and through Facebook. It's been a pleasure getting to know you.

    @ Elizabeth ~ thank you for your feedback on my blog and through Writers Speak...and for your kind words here. I am grateful for your input. As I told Margo recently: I will always feel like a newbie because there's so much to learn! :)

    @ Viv ~ thank you for your very kind words. I will take "mature and capable" any day!! :) Yes, we did first "meet" at PA during NaPo...seems like "so long ago" already. I was indeed REALLY new, at THAT point! :)

    @ Marie & Walt ~ I will echo Viv's sentiment by saying again how blessed I am with this supportive community. Thank you for the opportunity to toot y'all's horn! (I'm not native Texan...so it's rare that I SAY y'all...let alone know how to spell it! LOL)

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  18. Paula, what a joy to see that life and passion re-emerge, and be expressed in word-craft. I wish we were nearer and not so many decades having passed to know more of the journey that brought you to this place of poetry. Jesus' joy to you today!

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  19. Beautiful interview Marie and Paula. I'm inspired on so many different levels. Just what I needed this morning. Thank you!

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  20. Paula, this is a wonderful interview. I enjoyed learning more about you. I always enjoy my visits to your blog and your visits to mine. I think the poetry circuit is all about reciprocity, and you are good about that. I have enjoyed all of the positives, and you definitely are a positive person and a great poet. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the mention. Continue writing, Paula. I will continue reading.

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  21. @ Wendy ~ Glad to be in touch again. Thanks for your words of encouragement here, and elsewhere. You're a blessing.

    @ inluvwithwords (Ruth?) ~ so glad something touched you in a way that left you inspired. Thank you!

    @ Mary ~ thank you for your kind words. I've enjoyed our interactions through the prompts, and look forward to more reading and writing and reading...and writing and ....you get the picture. ;)

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  22. Walt and Marie, thanks for interviewing Paula, self-described "newbie". Because I call her friend, this was especially meaningful for me.

    Paula, thank you for being the generous, humble person you are. Your talent shows through clearly in your poetry. I love the learning stance that you take. As a teacher, that speaks volumes to me of your willingness to learn, to take risks, to speak your mind - and do it all so beautifully.

    Richard

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  23. Paula! What a wonderful interview! Your work has intrigued and inspired me from day one. Thank you so much for the sweet shout out. You've got an amazing creative spark, my friend. So glad you are making the time to fan it. ; )
    de

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  24. PS: I think (I hope) I commented on "a loss of knowing" when you shared it at Poetic Asides. There is SO much I relate to in those words. May you continue to listen to the heart of God, my poetic friend. And always, always share that heart with us.

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  25. @ Richard ~ Thank you for your kind words, my friend. I have been very grateful for your friendship on this journey! As a fellow teacher, I'm privileged to learn from someone like you. Thank you.

    @ De ~ Thank you for your kindness...here and throughout the online poetry world where our cyberpaths have crossed. I've enjoyed your work and have been blessed by your example to write from the heart.

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  26. Paula,

    What a wonderful interview...you do have a gift, my friend! Thanks for sharing it with us!

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  27. Davy! Thanks so much for coming by and for your kind words. I appreciate you and your ongoing encouragement to keep seeking what God has for me. ~Paula

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