Interview: Ginny Brannan

A while back, I received my 8000th comment. As many of you know, I find it fun to interview each 1000th commenter and this time Ginny Brannan is my “victim.” I hope you will enjoy getting to know this lovely lady and talented poet as much as I have.

Victoria, Excited to learn that I was your 8,000th commenter. Wow! Congratulations on achieving such a milestone! I just want to say that I am honored to have you interview me and share my answers with your readers. Quite humbled, thank you so much!

Ginny, you live in New England, a region that is home (or has been) to a number of talented and successful writers. What is it about a sense of “place” that generates so much creativity? How does it affect your writing?

New England, home to Emerson, Thoreau, Webster, Hawthorne, Dickenson, Plath, Wharton, Twain, to name a few either born in or settled here. My favorite poet, Robert Frost, was actually born in California, but settled in New England in his teens, and we “claim” him as our own. And Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was born and lived in Springfield, MA, close to where I live now.

I can’t speak of what inspired them, but I think have some sense of it—we have the extremes of the four seasons to draw from. Our terrain encompasses woodlands, farmland, mountains, seashore and everything in between. We have a real sense of history and historic pride here–dating back to the pilgrims’ arrival in Plymouth and the Revolutionary War. Though there are some larger cities, N.E. is still mostly small towns, and much life here is still rural country living. This small town/country life gives us strong sense of community, close ties with our families and neighbors. And how it affects my writing? I find that I am most satisfied with the results of what I write when I draw from what I know—nature and seasons, experiences, history, family and all that touches my life in some small way.

On your blog you mention that you come to writing later in life. What was it that kept you busy in your “younger” years?

I say “later” because I see many writers in their early 20s and 30s who are so talented, and here I am in my 50s basically just starting out. I’ve had poetry and creative writing classes in both high school and college, but kept busy for many years juggling my life between my family and work. I envy parents who can eke out “me” time. I was involved in PTO, Scouts, Youth Group, Band Parents. Much of my “me” time was spent volunteering!! My son is now grown, and my life changed dramatically 2-1/2 years ago with loss of my job of 18 years. With job-hunting, applying, interviewing, and all the resulting pressure and stress, I fell into quite a rut. My dearest friend and foster brother, also a writer, encouraged me to write. It helped to carry me through a tough time. (And gratefully I have found another job that I love!)

How have your earlier years influenced the topics you choose to write about?

My very early years were a bit rocky with the loss of very close loved ones, but I always had people around who cared. I think it taught me empathy and to always try to find the positive in any situation, and I hope that it helps to bring an honest, sympathetic, and ‘genuine’ quality to my writing I do tend to write in the “present,” and have only touched on my early youth in very few pieces.

I notice you have a variety of interests: poetry, of course, but also photography, music, gardening and more. I think many of us are like that and find it hard to find time to spend on all of them. Do you have any tricks for juggling your time that might help us? What comes first in your life?

First in my life are always husband and son of course, then family and friends. Writing would be next. I don’t call it a “hobby” as writing is something I must make time for, sometimes obsessively so, where hobbies may wait for my time. My hobbies include photography and scrapbooking– basically journaling one’s life through pictures. I carry my small digital camera everywhere, just in case! Music–well, I don’t actually play, I listen—and I can do that while doing almost anything else. Gardening in New England is seasonal: plant in the spring and water and weed in the summer, and if all goes well, reap the rewards. Tricks for juggling time? Sorry, not the one to ask for that one. While I’m doing one thing, something else is usually suffering for want of attention!

Where do you turn for inspiration? Which poetry communities are you a part of, and how do they help you?

I have been a member of the Facial Expression Poetry Circle headed up by the talents of Luke Prater since shortly after I began writing two years ago. Am honored to be among so many amazing poets and writers in a community that will honestly critique your work, make suggestions, and help hone a rough piece into what it can and should be.

I have shared on One Stop Poetry, d’Verse Poets Pub, Magpie Tales, BlueBell Books Short Story Slam, Thursday Poet’s Rally, Jingle Poetry, Gooseberry Garden, and G-Man’s “Flash 55.” There are many terrific writers I’ve gotten to know over time, and I have several favorites that I always look for, as their writing inspires and ‘speaks’ to me. (You, of course, are one of them!)

Let’s play the desert island game. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have one book, one movie, one CD and one writer (of whatever genre) to keep you company, what would your choices be?

Book would be Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy; movie “Moonstruck” It’s like watching my Italian family, never gets old!! CD—I like a large variety of music and the same for writers– I like so many genres, would be hard pressed to choose a ‘favorite.’

You write in a variety of poetic forms. Do you have a favorite(s)? Can you share a poem with us that you’ve written in that form.

Though I’ve written both structured and Free Verse poetry, I like the structured formats a bit more as I tend to be ‘wordy,’ and structure reigns me in. My favorite structured styles are Octain, for its simplicity and complexity at the same time: 8 lines, 8 syllables per line, and an internal rhyme; Quatern for the repetitive refrain line that moves down a line in each stanza; and the Rondeau, which has a more classic feel (think “In Flanders Fields”). Sharing one of my favorites below:

A Walk in the Woods (Rondeau)

Come walk with me on wooded trail
where nature’s beauty does prevail.
A single step and we begin;
serenity abides within
the crisp clean air we now inhale.

We walk beside abandoned rail,
can hear the ghost train whistles wail–
then path leads back to woods again…
Come walk with me.

We live our lives in urban jail,
away from quiet wooded dale.
To stay entrapped would be a sin
when nature beckons with her grin,
and lifts this gray and smog filled veil–
Come walk with me.

© Copyright Ginny Brannan October 2010

Ginny, thanks so much for giving a a glimpse into your life, your inspiration and your poetry. It’s been a delight to get to know you better…I suspect anyone who reads this will agree!

Tea With Helena–An Interview

As I was approaching the 5000th comment on my blog, I decided I wanted to do something new and special to celebrate. I always enjoy learning more about fellow poet-bloggers and so I decided that I would interview the person whose comment helped me achieve this benchmark…and every 1000th comment’s blogger thereafter. Helena of Memory Box Creations, is the first person to be featured. I hope you enjoy visiting with her as much as I have.

Helena--Memory Box Creations

When did you first start blogging, Helena? I started blogging January 2011.

What prompted you to join the blogosphere? After joining face book over a year and a half ago. I began sharing some of my poems and quotes. Through one of the games I befriended a lovely lady who offered poetry prompts. I joined in and found the feedback for my poetry to be very positive. Another woman who participated in her prompts, mentioned that she had a blog and that I should think about starting one. After much thought and a lot of encouragement, I decided to try it. My friend JL, who does the poetry prompts also started a blog at the same time.

Whenever I visit your blog, Memory Box Creations, I experience a sense of nostalgia, like stepping back in time. It’s a comforting feeling. What is the inspiration behind your blog? Thank you, Victoria. My intention was to present a welcoming ambiance. The title is a story in and of itself. I had once written about “Finding Comfort in a Memory Box” during my bereavement after losing my daughter Chantelle. Through the agonizing task of going through her personal things, I purchased a beautiful Pine Blanket Box and placed it in the middle of her room. Whenever I was strong enough, I would enter her room and place things in the box that held special meaning for me. I soon referred to it as the Memory Box. I also made a keepsake Teddy Bear from Chantelle’s high-school graduation dress. I soon was making keepsakes for other bereaved parents, so Memory Box Creations was born out of “healing” my profound grief. I imagined my blog to reflect a place of welcoming comfort that is somewhat reminiscent of a Victorian Tea Room. The inspiration comes from my dream of always wanting to have my own Tea Room…one that included the beauty of nature, my love of French country, shabby-chic decorating, and the simple pleasures where we can each find our bliss.

Aside from poetry, what else will the visitor find on your site? My hope is to include my love of such pastimes as embroidery, photography, scrapbooking, sharing recipes, home décor {nesting} and of course my favourite – Christmas decorating. However, my blog is still a work in progress. At first, I thought I would have to create individual blogs for each topic! Lol! So I do have another blog titled, Leaving A Trace, where I write my personal view on topics of interest, such as “Chasing Happiness”. After researching my family tree, I wrote about my Great, Great Grandfather, whom I discovered was a published author. I’m finding this is an ever-changing, evolving process, and I am excited to see where it may take me next.

There is a strong spiritual quality to your blog. You speak of love, forgiveness, healing, the freedom to choose. How has blogging influenced your personal and spiritual journey? I believe everyone has a story, some just have more chapters than others. Through my own healing journey, my journaling became a catharsis, a spiritual release of the emotional pain of grief. Blogging has become an extension of this by sharing and exposing my own pain – hoping that by doing so, I am able to help others along their journey. I believe our spiritual journey is never ending. What I have learned from blogging is that we are all basically on the same path of discovery – seeking truth. I’ve learned that all a person needs in life is a hand to hold and a heart to understand. We all just want to be heard and acknowledged. Blogging has been another outlet for me, whereas my angst has always been my inability to articulate the spoken word as well as my written word.

Which poetry communities do you visit? Do you have a “philosophy” relating to comments? * One Stop Poetry * Monday Memories * Monday’s Child * Write a Letter Wednesday * Theme Thursday * Dodge Writes *
(I’m still exploring – any recommendations?)  Other sites I might recommend are Jingle’s Poetry Rally and Jingle’s Poetry Potluck. Both of these sites encourage poets to exchange visits and comments. Potluck offers a prompt each Monday. Check out my blogroll for these links and for other sources of prompts.

Do you have a “philosophy” relating to comments? I’m still trying to figure out the whole protocol about commenting. Who doesn’t like comments? I do find it frustrating not being able to enjoy the immediate response like it is on facebook. I have seen some bloggers respond on their own posts. I find it hard to believe that the fellow blogger will go back to view the post (where they left their comment) to see if there was any response… especially if they leave a lot of comments. I try to go to their blog, even if it’s just to say hi! As far as a philosophy goes, the consensus is still out, except to say that I appreciate all comments on my blog.

What inspires your writing? Is there any particular writing form that you prefer? Do you write anything aside from poetry. My inspiration comes from all facets of life, including personal experiences, love, animals, nature, as well as the profound emotions that accompany the loss of a child. My personal sensitivity and awareness have lent themselves to writing for as long as I can remember. During my youth I would spread a blanket beneath my special tree, accompanied with pen and paper and surrender to my writer’s imagination. Not only have I always written from the heart, but I am fortunate to have been blessed with a vivid dream life. My dreams are sometimes like a story that’s being told to me. Although I have ventured into various forms of the written word, I prefer to write when the muse of spontaneity inspires me. As previously mentioned, I also write about my views on personal topics of interest. Several of these include: “Day Dreaming”, “Enough”, “Choices”, etc. I also enjoy featuring personal quotes on the blog, accompanied by intriguing photographs or imagery that accentuates the theme of what it is that I wish to inspire or convey to the reader.

Would you share a few things that you would like us to know about “Helena?” My loving husband, Bob, and I live in a small town in southern Ontario along with Topaz, our little Sheltie fur child. I have two wonderful children – a son, Rheal, and a daughter, Chantelle, who lives on in my heart. I also have two amazing stepchildren, Lori and Brian, and altogether we have seven grandchildren.

I find my bliss in writing, embroidering, sewing, photography, scrapbooking, and, of course, now I can add blogging. My favourite sound would have to be early-morning bird songs. My favourite time of the day–I have two: sunrise, when all is still and the world is just awakening, and dusk, the magic hour–that in-between time when calm stillness is ever-present and my intuition is at its peak.

Faith…Recognition by Intuition, the Nameless that tells us there is so much more. ~ Helena White

With this blog, my intentions are to step outside of my comfort zone of living to please others, in the hopes of finding like-minded friends and writers who seek to share ideas, ponder choices, and explore inspirations. I appreciate all comments on my blog (positive or negative) as a means of encouraging an ever-evolving dialogue.

In the past, I would allow myself to become paralyzed by what others thought of me. I would literally shut down and suppress the life of my choosing, therefore, living the life that people expected of me. I realize now, making choices that others did not like or understand, will not result in my destruction nor will my world crumble and fall. Free will and free choice are gifts we have been given that allow soul growth, so that we do not remain stuck in the quagmires of the past.

As I revealed in my poem, “Old Friend”, I would spread a blanket under the favourite tree of my childhood and write with total abandonment. I experienced the contentment of expressing my true, uninhibited feelings with no concern of being corrected or judged. This total freedom of choice always centered and calmed me, allowing me to process my emotions as well as my own truth.

Every day spirit speaks…inspiration arrives presenting us with even more choices. Our bliss echoes through our choices as well as our feelings. We must remember the value in dreaming our own dreams, as we follow our heart’s true calling.

It is not up to us to control others’ thoughts or assumptions, as we try to understand them. They, too, have the freedom to make their own judgments and choices. We can choose how we react to others’ choices and interpretations through our attitudes and questions. May we grow in love, in forgiveness, and in wisdom, as we ask for the strength to make the right choices…ones that benefit the whole, while bringing the healing we seek.

I would love to include one of your poems in this interview. Do you have a favourite?

Awakening

Human spirits are uniting across our world
through a conscious connection, seeking illumination.
Much the same way a pendulum swings freely,
we move from the Eternal Horizon,
out across the ocean of life, only to return to where our soul
once began this remarkable journey.
Within this infinite Universe we are all striving for
the same things. To live, love and be accepted
for ourselves and our individuality,
to be recognized and respected, all while slowly awakening.
When we are sincere in our convictions to live
at higher consciousness; we will find an Angel
within our reach to lift us beyond our human
limitations to bridge the Celestial Sphere.

The Gift

Don’t offer gifts of silver platters
Of diamonds, jewels galore
Grant me love and strength
to find within
My own authentic pearl

Thank you, Helena, for joining us for tea! I hope everyone enjoyed visiting with you and that many will take a few moments to discover you and your work at http://memoryboxcreations.blogspot.com/