INTERVIEW: Lisa Haselton Interviews Author Jen Payne

Welcome, Readers. My special guest today is poet/author/photographer Jennifer Payne. She’s sharing a bit about her new collection of poems, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. (Click Here to read the full interview!)


What do you enjoy most about writing poems?
Many of my poems show up as whispers of ideas. Maybe one line or two that reveal themselves…suddenly, from out of nowhere. That’s the most exciting part—that magic! Then…what comes next? where will that whisper lead me? To your question, what I enjoy most is allowing the poem to show up and become what it needs to become, allowing myself to be open to the creative spirit so I can tell the story.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
One of my favorite poems in the new book is called “Microcosm.” It’s about two separate encounters, one with a spider on my desk, and one with a fish by a pond—and me, wondering what they might be thinking about as we crossed paths. You know, in that same way you wonder about the lives of people in the lit-up rooms of houses you drive by at night?

Microcosm
The spider had a curious look —
not curious as in odd,
but curious, inquisitive, intrigued.
I saw him from the corner of my eye
watching me, then rummaging
through a pile of paper,
back again for a second look,
peering as if to say Who Are YOU?
(or WHAT I suppose)
Perhaps the same look of WHAT?
the fish had as it soared over the pond
yesterday afternoon…
Who are YOU? to the osprey,
and WHEN did I learn to fly?

Another favorite is “I Am Just the World.” It was one of those poems that just showed up, as I was saying before. I was walking on my favorite trail in the woods, and heard the something crawling. I followed the sound and found a spotted turtle making its way through the fall leaves. Spotted turtles are listed as a species of concern/endangered, so this was a very special sighting. And poignant.

I Am Just the World
Pay no attention.
I’m just here
beneath these trees,
their forgotten leaves
warm from the sun.
Never mind
my slow traverse,
I’ll step aside for you.
Make myself small
so you forget
I am light and love,
the god to which you pray,
the universe upon my back,
everything.

I think some people take offense that I anthropomorphize the creatures I meet in the woods – give them personalities and narratives. But, it’s not like I think they are skipping around in the forest singing and such. I use personification to get the reader to think outside of themselves, to consider the other creatures with whom we share this planet. We’re all connected…that is, ultimately, the theme of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, and of a lot of my other writing.

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I write mostly free form poetry. It’s simply how my muse speaks to me right now. However, I have been working with a group of local poets, the Guilford Poets Guild, for the past few years. Very often they write in specific forms— a sonnet, a villanelle, haiku. I’ve been thinking I’d like to challenge myself to look to form a little more in my work. That could be fun!

What type of project are you working on next?
For the near future, I’ve been thinking about publishing a short story I wrote called “Water Under the Bridge.” It’s an epistolary novella told through a series of emails. And then another book of poetry, but that won’t be for several years.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember — grade school creative writing, high school newspaper, college journalism, freelance writing, zine publishing. For the past 25 years, I’ve been the wearer of all hats – editor, copy writer, marketing wordsmith – as the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design business in Branford, Connecticut.

I maintain a regular blog, Random Acts of Writing (www.randomactsofwriting.net) on which I write essays, travelogues, book reviews, flash fiction, and poetry.

I have written poetry for much of my life, but have gravitated to that form almost exclusively for the past three or four years.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
Just write. That’s my advice. It’s very easy to get caught up in the “business” of writing – editing, researching, preparing, submitting (and waiting), then doing that all over again for the next poem. I call it “hoop jumping.”

Better to just make time to do the writing, perfect your craft, connect with other writers. Just write.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I do my best writing at 3:00 a.m. I love the quiet of the early hours of the morning, before anyone else is awake. There are no distractions – none of the bells and dings and buzzing of our social technologies. Just sweet dark quiet…and coffee.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Honestly? I wanted to be Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. I loved her little bottle house! Wouldn’t that be a great place to write? Plus, she had magical powers. What could be better than that?

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes. Don’t fight with your craft. Let it be. Let it do what it wants to do. I see a lot of angst-ridden memes about writers. Quotes that talk about the suffering we must endure, the anguish of writer’s block, the agony of rejection letters. Forget all of that and Just Write. Here’s a great quote to think about from writer Alan Moore…

“To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head – and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It’s an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that’s not the most important thing. It’s the work itself.” ― Alan Moore

(Hey! So, maybe I have magical powers after all.)

Thanks for being here today, Jen.
Thank you, Lisa, for this chance to talk with you and your readers about writing and my new book!


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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BOOK REVIEW by Blogger Crystal Casavant-Otto

Evidence of Flossing is a thought provoking read that left me forever changed; somehow simultaneously poignant and uplifting….This is not a book you will read and forget. In fact, it’s the type of book you will refer to friends, pick up from time to time, and think about often as life propels you forward.” – Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

>> Click here to read the full review.


This review is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Exploring Mindfulness

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Choices with Madeline Sharples, sharing my thoughts on…

EXPLORING MINDFULNESS

I. A Meditation on Bugs

I hadn’t walked five minutes up the trail before they ambushed me. A swarm of gnats dropped down in front of my face like a thin, black veil. Two flies laid claim to my ears—bzzzzzzzzzzzzzing in stereo. Their siege left me breathless—afraid to inhale.

My swatting—swat, buzz, swat, buzz, swat, buzz, buzz!—was moot.

By coincidence, I had recently watched that scene in the movie Eat Pray Love in which the Julia Roberts character successfully sits in meditation for a full hour despite an enthusiastic swarm of bugs and thoughts. She lets the small annoyances pass and finds her way to stillness.

I’ve had a hard time with that kind of mindfulness—still sitting, mind clearing. A few years ago, I tried a guided group meditation. A kind and creative soul gently guided us for an hour. We floated through the sky, over the ocean, into the stars—okay, THEY floated. I spent the entire hour imagining myself running after them, trying to catch up!

My mind and I are usually running after something—the next project, the next errand, the next idea. Lots and lots of thoughts…like the lots and lots of bugs around my head!

In her book Stop the Pain: Adult Meditations, my dear friend Dale Carlson explains that there are many ways to meditate: “If your nervous system is the result of an active gene pool or you are personally too frayed to sit down right off, begin with a walk.”

In my own explorations mindfulness, my walks have become my meditation, but this day in the woods with the bugs was particularly challenging. I wanted to find my way to quiet. I tried to just be with the bugs. I walked (swat), I listened to the birds (buzz), I looked up at the trees (swat), I heard the leaves rustle (buzz).

Over and over again, I tried to bring my mind back to the present—to “pay attention” as Dale often reminds me—walking on a trail, drops of rain on my head, the smell of damp earth. And over and over again, my mind would run after the bugs.

Slowly, I am learning to let these annoyances pass over me. There are days when the bugs stay with me, buzzing their demands and nipping at my spirit for the entire walk.

And then there are days I walk with great ease—my breath is free, my mind is clear, and everything around me glows.

II. With Eyes Cast Down

My mind was busy as I walked to the trail. It was one of those days. Should I go left? Should I go right? I am always indecisive when my mind is occupied otherwise.

On this day, I went right—instead of left—and found my way along a narrow, woodland path. Up a hill. Across a small, spring stream. Into the quiet of the woods—I was breathing again.

There, in front of me, a patch of new ferns congregated along the edge of the trail, and I paused for a moment. Down on one knee to look closer, I realized I was no longer worrying about the worries that were worrying me. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

“It turns out meditation is not separate from daily life,” writes Dale. “It is taking time for walking or sitting in silence so your life can be reflected in the pool of that silence.”

Right there, I gave myself an assignment: Look down, be quiet, pay attention.

And there they were. Small clusters of wildflowers, patches of delicate ferns, bright colors, and playful shapes. New spring life, all along my path.

I never would have seen them. Look down, be quiet, pay attention.

III. Being One With

I knew right away it was a magical day in the woods. The gorgeous 50-degree afternoon was accented by a bright blue sky and a soft breeze that sang through the trees.

I saw a trail I’d never seen before, followed it to the edge of the pond and sat for a while. Sat. Quietly. I’d been invited to do so by the turtle who was on the log but disappeared as soon as I sat down. I waited for him to return, but he never did.

So I made my way back down a familiar path until I heard the distinct rustle of a hawk landing in a tree just up a hill. I stood silently for five, maybe ten minutes, watching it perched up high. But, when I decided to get a closer look, he took off into the tops of pine trees nearby. As I continued on my way, he flew above me, casting shadows on the path—he was watching me now, and we both knew it.

A squirrel stopped when I called to her, but dropped her acorn from the startle. “Go ahead, go back and get it,” I told her, then stepped gingerly back a few steps to allow safe space. She scurried down the tree, snatched up her meal, then glanced my way as if to say thanks.

A carpenter bee was busily moving about when I came upon her. I watched for a while as she crawled in an out of her burrow—spring cleaning, I wondered?

Walking further and further down the path this way, I could feel peace settle in. If I closed my eyes and breathed, I barely existed—except to feel the breeze on my skin and hear the whisper of trees. My footsteps, my heartbeat, my thoughts were so far away, they sounded hollow and unreal.

From the flirting of birds in the trees to the surprise of late-spring wildflowers come early, the forest was brimming with life and spirit…and suddenly, so was I.

“In silence, oneness with everything is possible….” — Dale Carlson

>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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BOOK REVIEW by Writer David W. Berner

“The French poet and novelist, Victor Hugo, wrote, ‘The reduction of the universe to the compass of a single being, and the extension of a single being until it reaches God—that is love.’ Jennifer A. Payne expands on those words with an unflinching account of our unshakeable relationship to the modern world around us, God, nature, and ourselves.” — David W. Berner

>> Click here to read the full review.


This review is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Inspiration

Today, I’m a guest blogger on CMash Reads, sharing my thoughts on… FINDING INSPIRATION When I told a friend last spring that I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, she asked me how I found the inspiration for 30 poems. “It’s like rummaging around in a junk drawer,” I told her.… Continue reading GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Inspiration

Are you complicating what is really simple?

If coyote has shown up, you may wish to ask yourself…Are you being too serious? Have you forgotten that play time is essential to health? Are you complicating what is really simple? — Ted Andrews, Animal Speak

I.

From the trailhead…
the colonnade of maple
the brook, the path sub rosa
the slight overlook
  the
  hill
a shaded crest
relieves the wearied
disappearing
a slow curved decent
to somewhere else.

II.

Here, the primeval sweep
reveals its community…
tree and shrub and vine
glade and pond, stand
silent in the morning still
but pine song and robin trills
an earthy incense lingers
on low draped mist
revealing change
  night to day
  weary to worship
then sudden breath.

III.

We see each other
suddenly, unstartled…
I heard you singing
I say to her without words
Yes, she nods, and I
heard you breathing

We stand as if in prayer
silent, heads bowed
Can I stay with you?
Greet the day on all fours
howl at the world
rising with the southern wind?
But she is suddenly shadow
  or ghost
  or dream
Namaste, I whisper
heading east to meet the sun.

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, the new book by Jen Payne. Click here to buy your copy today! ©2017, Jen Payne
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Local Shops Supporting Local Authors

Doing some holiday shopping this weekend? Stop by these fabulous local shops for copies of Evidence of Flossing plus many distinctive gifts for everyone on your list!


Martha Link Walsh Gallery
188 North Main Street, Branford, (203) 481-3505
www.marthalinkwalsh.com


Rock Garden
17 South Main Street, Branford, (203) 488-6699
www.rockgarden.com


Seaside Home & Gifts
172 Thimble Islands Road, Branford, (203) 481-1177
www.seasidehomeandgifts.com