Celia Homesley's first book of poetry, Body of Crimson Leaves, is an absolutely lovely collection of quietly beautiful poems. Most of us don't buy many books of poetry in a year, but I suggest that you start off 2007 by adding this one to your library. You can also meet Celia at Booklegger this Saturday at 7 pm - she and Jerry Martien will read from their work, and Celia's bringing homemade cookies. What's not to like? Here's what Celia had to say recently about her life as a writer:
Your poetry seems to me to be all about an intersection between the natural world and our personal lives and relationships. Is that right?
I guess the natural world has always been a metaphor, for me, for humans: our bodies and our feelings. So, I'll smell a particular flower, a narcissus, maybe, and it will smell like a particular fragrance of self, a kind of sweet sadness maybe, or maybe it will look like the face of a girl I knew when I was a girl ... it's not the kind of thing I'll even think about consciously when I smell the flower, but it will come to me later when I'm writing. Trees are similar. And sometimes animals.
Your poems are very beautiful on the page. Do you think about how they look on the page?
I want my poems on the page to be clear, simple and as elegant as possible. I don't want their form to hinder anyone from reading or understanding them. If a poem calls for it, I may need to enjamb lines for a sense of urgency, for example, but usually a poem's pace is slow and methodical enough that I can break lines at the ends of thoughts or images, which lends a simplicity and purity to the form.
Do you do much revision?
I usually revise a poem many times at first, and then little by little over the years, if each time I look at it it doesn't seem right. There's definitely a point for me where, eventually, a poem seems right, and then I won't touch it. If, say, five years after I've written it, it still feels right, I won't mess with it.
Do you like to read your work aloud?
I'm kind of shy about reading work aloud, but it's kind of fun, too, and it's good for the poems to be aired out. I think it also gives the poems another dimension. I think some people also, like my friend Zoey, prefer to be read to than to read; they absorb poems better that way. But I write my poems for the page, first, so that anyone, sitting in solitude, might connect to them. In Yeats' autobiography, he talks about seeing lovers on a park bench bent over his pages, or a dried flower positioned as a bookmark in a page of his. I love the romanticism of that.
Is it useful to study and analyze poetry in the classroom, or does that ruin it somehow?
I think it can be harmful to "overstudy" poetry by deconstructing it in a classroom setting, for example, if that causes a person to stop loving it. If you look at it from so many angles that you can't find its soul and/or its mystery is dulled or lost, I believe you do yourself and the poem an injustice.
I think some level of conscious study of poetry is very helpful when a person is first learning it. My first literature class with Dick Day taught me how to read poetry at a greater depth. It was a good starting point.
What kind of day job do you think is suitable for a poet? Is it too draining to teach poetry and try to write it at the same time?
Well, I have to say that in my experience, teaching writing is not the same as actually writing. I know that sounds obvious, but it can feel like the same thing, kind of, because you're putting out creative energy toward writing, just not your own. After teaching part time for six years or so, I was burnt out, broke, and had not been writing nearly as much as I wanted. But teaching itself is noble, and I learned a lot about myself and stretched my own personal boundaries.
But it wasn't until I ceased teaching and began to work a 9 to 5 job at Bungalow Support Services that I was able to put this manuscript together. I would get off work and feel this wonderful freedom of not having homework: No lectures to prepare, no papers to grade, and I could grab some food, go to a coffeehouse or my writing room and sit with my poetry. I needed it badly, my poetry needed it badly and it felt blissful.
Meet Celia Homesley at Booklegger in Eureka this Saturday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m.
Stop by Rainy Day Books in Fortuna on Friday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. for a discussion with book restoration specialist Jill Saunderson. It's also a good chance to visit the new bookstore if you haven't already - it's just off Main Street - and owner Monica Hubbard will serve up some snacks as well. (No crumbs on the old books, please!) That weekend, on Feb. 24 and 25 from 10-4, Saunderson will teach a book restoration workshop at Chia Jen Studio in Rio Dell. To register, call 764-3877.
Don't forget that Fortuna Library Day is coming up on Wednesday, March 14, at the Fortuna River Lodge. This is your chance to meet local authors, buy some books (the Friends of the Library always has a great used book sale) and stay around for dinner that evening. Featured authors include Wendy Lestina, Ellin Beltz, John Daniel and Stanley Roscoe, as well as children's authors Mary Nethery and Natasha Wing. Stay tuned for details.