The work of writers who have an affinity for nature has always appealed to me. Whitman, Merwin, Pollan. I've come across plenty of good writers whose work touches on nature and the human spirit while scanning the exponentially growing library that is the Internet.
One of my favorites who occupy this realm is local writer Susan Marie who maintains a big presence through her Facebook page, blogs and website. In fact, it was through social media that I first encountered her writing, which led me to go listen to her read her work. I've since kept her posts in daily rotation. She agreed to a thoroughly modern mode of interviewing (that being via email and text messaging). It is my hope that, after reading this, you search out more of what she has to offer.
Fred Whitehead - When did you start writing?
Susan Marie - I recall my first attempts at writing around the age of 15. A lot of my writing back then is full of my poetic interpretations of books I read on firsthand accounts written by Vietnam Veterans. The music I listened to, mostly 60's and 70's, had a massive impact on my writing, too. When I turned 16 and met my future husband, my writing began to rhyme and was focused on love and romance. That changed as I grew as a person. I still have all of my journals from those times, too.
F.W. - Who were or are some of your biggest influences and why?
S.M. - Jack Kerouac, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī [Rumi], Kahlil Gibran, Charles Bukowski, Billy Connolly, Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāz [Hafiz/Shiraz], Franz Kafka, Carl Jung, Mary Oliver, Langston Hughes, Saul Williams, Stephen King and that list goes on and on. I am influenced by these writers because they all have a unique style and voice, yet every one of them went against the status quo of their time.
F.W. - What is it about these writers that inspired you?
S.M. - They utilized their voice and saw it as a gift and brought what they felt, saw and experienced to the people. Some of these writers still do. They wrote of what is real, tangible, things that can be felt, experienced, tasted, and touched. They wrote of life, pain, death, loss, tragedy, happiness, bliss and spirituality. They wrote of the horrors of our world while still recognizing the beauty. These writers fought inner battles within self and allowed us to learn from that.
F.W. - What is your writing day like and do you have any particular habits or certain places you go to write?
S.M. - I do not have a writing day or schedule. I simply write and must write, with anything, in that moment the inspiration strikes or else it will be gone. That can happen all day long or a week from now. If I am driving, I record my thoughts in order to catch them. If I am working, I must write it down quick or type it and send it to myself in an email. I simply am "elsewhere" when I write I cannot be bothered or the entire moment is lost.
F.W. - I like to think of those moments as Transport Episodes. When it seems to go completely quiet and you are not quite sure how long you've been staring off into the distance before you snap back to this plane to jot something down.
I don't submit much of my work to publications. I've chosen a different path for getting my work out. How about you, do you submit your work on a regular basis?
S.M. - Yes I do. This is integral to being a writer. You must get used to rejection [and not let it bother you] and become familiar with the various submission and publishing processes.
F.W. - What kind of journals or publications do you submit to?
S.M. - I submit to all and any journals or magazines that correlate with and accept my style of writing, whatever that is. If it does not speak to me, I do not submit. I want to ask you back how you choose to share and publish your work?
F.W. - I almost always share my work through my blog or on Facebook before I compile the poems into a manuscript. Ninety percent of the time these are the raw, first drafts. I really don't mind people seeing them in that form. They can, if they wish to, follow the arc of a poem as it goes from a first thought to a finished product. When I get a group of poems together I then will publish a book myself or check with a couple of small presses I know of to see if they want to.
Do you write mostly poetry or do you dabble in prose as well?
S.M. - Mostly poetry. I have written a lot of flash fiction, articles, short stories, have two half written novels, am published in a ton of anthologies and have my own volume of poetry and prose and am waiting on final publication of a new volume of poetry. Poetry is no doubt my voice. Spoken-word poetry is definitely my voice. It is extremely difficult for me to adhere to a time/day for writing as it hits me out of the blue. I have deep respect for writers that keep a schedule and are true to their calling as novelists.
F.W. - Are you originally from the Buffalo area?
S.M. - Yes. South Buffalo. "Is fearr Gaelige bríste, ná Béarla clíste!"
F.W. – Ok, I ran that through a translation app. and got "Gaelige best trousers, a clever English!"
Ummmm... Is this true?
S.M. - Haha, no. Translations online are always horrible.
"Is fearr Gaelige bríste, ná Béarla clíste!" means: Broken Irish is better than clever English. That is part of my Irish Heritage. My family is from County Cork. I was raised in South Buffalo Irish Heritage District, my Mother, The Old First Ward.
F.W. - Where did you study?
S.M. - I have no formal study in writing. Life teaches me.
F.W. - You seem to write a good deal about nature and spiritual matters. What is it about those things that spark the muse for you?
S.M. - Nature is a grounding, healing energy source and integral to human existence. The beauty I see, feel and experience in nature is undefinable as each of us have our own perceptions, however, nature IS spiritual because it includes the universe as a whole that helps us to recognizes self and in that, our placement on this Earth with our brothers and sisters.
F.W. - Where do you go to find nature?
S.M. - Everywhere. Nature is right outside my window, inside my home. Right now, I hear birds singing for me. While driving, the sunrise and set is always by my side, I spot deer and wildlife by creek beds or the side of the road. I hike a lot and have found numerous waterfalls to stand beneath. Our beaches allow me to dig my toes in the sand where I can also collect rocks, shells and driftwood. Growing my own food and herbs, working in my garden is nature. I am thankful to be surrounded by Lake Erie and the New York State and Olmsted Parks Systems. Living in Western New York is a blessing.
F.W. - You seem to have a great interest in photography. Is that also something you submit or show, or is it for your own pleasure?
S.M. - I have always adored photography. I still have two 35 mm film cams. There is a magical aspect to catching a moment and it need not be perfect, it just has to "say something." Photography is purely my own pleasure, however, I like to document and show others what I have seen hoping they might go see for themselves. This is not professional by any means nor do I intend it to be.
F.W. - How important are social media platforms to you in getting your work and ideas out to the public?
S.M. - Necessary, integral. Without social media, connecting to the world in seconds is impossible. By utilizing technology for positive fashions, I have been able to reach across the world and my own city to show things to others and in return, them to me. It is a powerful tool for communication and I do my best to utilize technology for the greater good. If you have a voice you wish the world to hear, and hope to bring goodness to our world, you must learn how to utilize technology to its fullest.
F. W. - You seem very connected to groups that advocate for those who are prejudiced against in one way or another. Have you always wanted to be a voice for helping people?
S.M. - I do not see myself as a voice for anyone, you know, as a human being, it is our duty to help one another if able. I see atrocities occurring daily and if I am meant be a part of it, I am. I see us all as a collective group, doing our best to raise consciousness and make this world a better place, together, not apart. I mean we are all taught the basics of what is right and wrong as children. Many people tend to forget this most important lesson as they grow older. To me, it is a simple thing to show solidarity.
F.W. - Are there any other artistic endeavors besides writing and photography that you dabble in?
S.M. - Yes! I play the drums and the flute. I paint, well, I try to paint, I sketch. I like trying DIY [Do It Yourself] art projects that include recycling and upcycling. I adore art in all forms and will attempt anything and see if I am good at it or not.
F.W. - What do you think of the poetry scene in Buffalo? What, if anything, would you change or like to see happen.
S.M. - The poetry scene in Buffalo has always been booming. When I entered the scene that was old Allen Street and the Hardware, Urban Epiphany, Talking Leaves, Rust Belt, Caz Cafe, then onto the Screening Room, the CFI and Merriweather Library. Endless places to read and meet other writers and artists. I met the most beautiful people that taught me about finding my own voice through spoken word. I began recording the poetry scenes, as many as I could get to and they are still archived online. I see the scene consistently changing and that is necessary. What I like now is there are far more venues and opportunities to read your poetry than say, maybe 10 years ago. Buffalo is alive with art. Art is, besides nature, the city's greatest treasure.
Here are a couple of Susan's poems as well as links to some of her other work.
Born of This
Published On Mogul
It is tiresome
with a beating heart.
I wish to close my eyes to horror,
yet my soul was made to speak.
I shout atrocity from rooftops
with rusted gutters,
my jawbone clenched tight.
Hoping that the blind shall see,
and the deaf shall hear;
dead-men nod to my supplications.
The sky quivers and quakes,
roaring untold stories of ancestors.
Nature does not judge.
Instinct is the root
into becoming whole.
Oh, such peace
to be among the birds and trees,
the grass, green.
The deer and raven dine side by side.
I shall recharge like Walden,
go home where I feel peace.
The human race confuses me,
and I am often ashamed to admit
that I am born of it.
the perfect poem
the perfect poem
is without words
it is heard within the cries of lovers
limbs reaching roots
it is the sun dappled dawn
rich and vibrant
like cheeks rising
as apples, ripe
it is the laughter of children
encrypted within chalk lines on sidewalks
where no words are spoken
and no language exists
it is the heart, racing
through atriums and ventricles
pumping blood to breath
so your eyes
through your tears after rainfall
the perfect poem
it is the presence of love
and the breath of angels.
For More Info on Susan Marie:
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