Tweetspeak Poetry is on a beautiful quest to bring Poetry for Life to people across the world, where they live, work, learn, and take leisure. As you might guess, we can’t do it without your help, since the effort takes a good deal of resources—from financial, to intellectual, to social (and maybe coffee, tea and cinnamon toast resources as well).
Partners like you and our 2015 Gold+ Partner Laura Lynn Brown are making amazing things happen, as together we bring life-changing articles, community-building opportunities, teaching tools, and #smartfun poetry awareness to people who are already looking for ways to explore poetry or are discovering its insight and possibilities for the first time.
Today, we’d love for you to meet Laura Lynn Brown, who has dedicated 2015 as the year she helps poetry in a big way through Tweetspeak. So, listen in as L.L. Barkat asks a few curious questions:
1. Laura, you’re an author who’s been published at Slate and the Iowa Review, had the distinction of one of your essays being declared a “Notable Essay of 2013” in the Best American Essays anthology, and are also an online publisher. Tell me about your writing life. What got you started? What keeps you going?
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. My second grade teacher tells me I used to turn in unassigned reports (she especially remembers one about aardvarks). I was a reporter on my sixth-grade newspaper, and began writing poems at that age too. (I might still have a copy of “Song to a Bowl of Cornflakes.”) I started because I was shy and had things to say. Because I read a lot and I wanted to make sentences work like that. And because my mother saw, and nurtured.
These days my writing life includes working on essays for online publication, accumulating pieces toward some longer-term or larger projects, writing poems sporadically, writing headlines (which is sometimes a tiny form of poetry), reviewing arts events and supplying occasional features for the paper, and contributing for Makes You Mom. I write a gratitude column called Daylilies, which is also a place for me to play with writing, and right now we’re writing a series on self-care and inviting other writers to blog along.
What keeps me going? Ideas that keep knocking until I let them out. Hearing I’ve written something that has been meaningful for others. That good feeling when writing is going well and two hours have passed and I haven’t noticed or had the impulse to check Facebook or get something to eat or attend to some suddenly urgent housework. The satisfaction of getting something as right as I can make it. The surprise of realizing something I never would have come to if I hadn’t written my way to it. Even the tactile pleasure of moving a favorite pencil or pen across smooth or slightly toothy paper.
2. You wrote a book called Everything That Makes You Mom. Tell us about it? (Sure, we’d love to know what other people say about it too.)
The book is a collection of tiny stories about my mother, in all her complexity. It’s also a tool for others to create the same kind of portrait of their mothers, using writing prompts after each story, and to give it to mom as a keepsake and a reflection of who she’s been in her grown child’s eyes. For folks whose moms are gone, it’s a way to collect those memories of mom, either for themselves or as a gift to their children.
I’ve heard sweet stories from people who didn’t have warm, fuzzy memories of their mothers, but who have used the book to come to a more complex understanding of who their mothers were and maybe to reach some forgiveness for hard things. A few have told me it’s helped to improve their relationships with their mothers. I love hearing all these ways people find to make the book their own.
The book resulted from my essay Fifty Things About My Mother. I should also say it has some funny parts. My mom had a wry sense of humor.
3. You are now the publisher of a truly marvelous website called Makes You Mom. What makes it different from other mom sites? If I were a writer and a poet (which, well, I am), would I have a reason to visit your place?
I think all mom sites serve some purpose and some audience. Many are focused on moms with small children at home, with great resources, helpful advice, reassurance that other moms are experiencing that thing you think you’re the only one dealing with.
Makes You Mom is different in that it’s less concerned with advice and maybe more attentive to matters of the heart and being a whole person. Some well-intended websites can leave moms feeling weak, worried, inadequate. Our intent is never, ever, to tell you you’re doing it wrong. Writers and Poets, you’d probably enjoy visiting Makes You Mom to find good writing, possibly some kindred spirits, and to discover great opportunities to submit your work.
4. There are plenty of sites you could have chosen to partner with (thanks for being a Gold Partner!). Why Tweetspeak? I mean, why not someplace like Goodreads or Kirkus, or any number of other sites that say they want to work with authors and publishers?
It pays to study how sites that say they want to work with authors and publishers actually work with authors and publishers. I won’t speak specifically about other sites, but in general, often what an author is paying for is a review of her book, and for increased visibility on a webpage. From what I can tell, sometimes authors have been unhappy with poorly written or inaccurate reviews, and they can’t find any measurable sales boost attributable to that investment.
L.L., you’re a writer, an author and a publisher who knows the business from many angles. I’ve participated in two Tweetspeak online writing workshops, joined a stealth T.S. Poetry Press book release, and seen the inventive, supportive, nurturing, and just plain fun things that come from Tweetspeak. I know I will get savvy personal attention based on my strengths, some of which might be more clearly seen by someone else. It is a partnership, rather than a blind hope.
5. Top 5 favorite poems? I had to ask. Okay, or if you prefer, you can tell me what your top 5 poetic things in the world are.
May I answer both? Understand that these lists would change tomorrow. Or even an hour from now.
5 poems I love
1. “One Art, ” Elizabeth Bishop. I think it’s the finest villanelle ever.
2. “Home to Roost, ” Kay Ryan. (I could tell you five things I love about the poetry of Kay Ryan.)
3. “Prayer, ” Galway Kinnell. I’ve known and shared this tiny poem for years and years, and it’s still revealing secrets.
4. “Small Spaces, ” Brenda Hillman.
5. “The Language of Crows, ” a prose poem by Louis Jenkins.
Runners-up: “Ask Me, ” William Stafford; “Spring and Fall, ” Gerard Manley Hopkins; “Disgraceland, ” Mary Karr
1. Poems’ portability and comfort in memorization. I expect that when many other things are lost in my old brain, the poems I’ve learned will still be there.
3. The musicality of poetry—meter, accent, rhyme, lyricism, beat, song without notes. Poetry’s sounds beg to be freed from the page and spoken.
4. Small presses that find and publish delightful poets without requiring them to have a platform the size of an aircraft carrier.
5. Take Your Poet to Work Day. (I think it all hinges on “Your, ” and the popsicle sticks.) Last year I printed the coloring book and left it on a blank desk in a high-traffic area at work, along with crayons, Popsicle sticks, scissors and tape. The editor with a degree in Spanish picked Neruda. A features writer colored Adrienne Rich, whom she’d studied in college. We had ice cream at work that day, so I’m taking Wallace Stevens this year, though he’s not getting his hopes up.
Photo by Jeff Kubina, Creative Commons, via Flickr.