My Start in Writing Poetry

While teaching English to 9th Graders in the mid-1990’s, I read in my local newspaper a list of classes being offered by Community Education during the Spring Semester. A Poetry Writing class was being offered by Leslie Ovard, an Idaho State University instructor. I had been interested in writing for years, but now I had a method of writing that I wanted to explore.

The class was organized as a workshop. We would come each week with a poem, created from a writing prompt from the previous week. I started writing about what I knew– the mining industry in North Idaho. I am from Kellogg, Idaho, and my father’s family had immigrated there from Camborne, Cornwall. His grandfather had come to the area since the 1880’s, probably in the gold mining camps of Pritchard and Murray north of Kellogg.

On the first night of the class, I found that I was the only male who signed up for the class. I was not too surprised. The only reason why I mention it is that I seemed to be treated differently when we shared and commented on our weekly writings. My stuff seemed to be chewed up and spit out quicker than others.

I didn’t take it personally. It was more of a humorous highlight–more of a challenge. A few weeks in, one of the ladies brought it to the class’s attention that my writings seemed to be getting more negative comments. Actually, I used the comments as more of a personal insight. I spent more time editing and polishing my writings, knowing that they would be bulldogged. I used the comments to improve. However, after that comment, I did feel that I was more a part of the class.

I kept returning to mining themes for writing my poems. I always admired my Dad who spent his whole working life as a hardrock miner. He was proud to be a Mainline Motorman. I wanted to memorialize his life’s work in poetry. My writing grew from a chore of completing a weekly assignment to a love of finding my writing voice. Having a real goal improved my results.

My mining poems were eventually gathered together and self published as my first Chapbook in 2004. The title of that first work was Miner Moments. I only hand-sold less than ten copies. I gave away more copies to family and friends than I sold. My pay was in thank-you’s. I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s comment after publishing Walden: “I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself. Is it not well that the author should behold the fruits of his labor?”

When l published my 25-year collection of poetry in January of 2022, Writing in Sand, I included all my poems from Miner Moments. I’m still proud of that first Chapbook since it was dedicated to my Dad.

My next post will continue my writing journey in poetry. What happened after the writing class? How did it change my writing life?

What are you most proud of in your life? If you are a writer or a poet or another creative, what got you started? How did you go about finding your voice in writing or creating? I love sharing stories. None are too small to hear.

amazon.com/author/williampeterspoet

A New Poem This Morning

This morning was a poet’s dream for me. Two poem subjects bubbled to the surface. Within a span of an hour and a half, I had completed two new poems. One came from a childhood memory and the other came from seeing a puzzle carved into a tombstone in Ontario Canada.

Steven King once observed that poems are written with the unconscious mind. I read that quote after writing the poems. I felt as though lightning had struck the ground in front of me. Those two poem subjects kept returning to my mind. I kept saying, How, and they found a way.

I’ll share my childhood memory poem.

Padding My Resume

 

I can remember

Being flight captain

Of my own rocket

At the early age

Of eight years

Five months

 

I had few problems

Visiting other worlds

With a limitless supply

Of special rocket fuel

 

And maintenance free

Rock knobs and stick levers

On my Navigator Control Panel

 

Seating was primitive

On my scaffolding

Support beam

 

Hanging

Over a ditch

 

Of a forever

Dismantled outhouse

Eat the Storms Podcast

I have just been notified that I will be on Eat the Storms Poetry Podcast this Saturday. The Podcast originates from Ireland at 5 PM. The Podcast should broadcast locally at 10 AM MDT OR 9 AM PDT. From the list of poets, I may be first on the program.

I am deeply honored to read my work on the podcast. I will be reading from my recently published 25 year collection of my poetry. The book Writing in Sand is available on Amazon.

#StayBloodyPoetic

My Most Valued Book

If my house were on fire and I could only save one book, I wouldn’t have to think about my choice. I know exactly where it is located, even though I picked it up at a library used-book sale more than forty years ago.

The book is entitled “20,000 Years in Sing Sing”, by Warden Lewis E Lawes. It was first copyrighted in 1932 and the edition I have was published on 1942. I’m sure this book is out of print, but this is one book that should never be out of print.

Warden Lawes worked his entire life as a supervisor of a prison. He worked tirelessly for reform of penal institutions in the United States. His methods were sound, effective, and revolutionary. However, his reforms were not universally accepted. The system still has problems long after Lawes left the scene.

Early in his career, Lawes found that the most common model for reformatories and prisons was based upon mistrust, fear, and force. He was not naive in his approach to prisoners, but his focus was more on the effectiveness of interacting with inmates. He wanted to know, “What approach was more effective and productive?” He said, “No prison can be run without discipline and obedience. But it should be the discipline and obedience born of respect and understanding (p. 152).

To sum up, Lawes’ approach to prisoners was to treat them with mutual respect, trust, and fair dealing with honesty. “We realize, of course, that there are many dangerous men among our prisoners. Men who bear watching. I have found, however, that the gesture of trust will bring its return in honor and faith (p.143).” How did he do this? One example. He brought his wife and children to live with him inside the walls of Sing Sing Prison in New York. His trust was returned by the inmates.

How did this book change my life?

I was a teacher of young adolescents for twenty-five years. After reading this book, I decided to change the way I interacted with each student.

On the first day of school, I would introduce myself to the students and I say that my main goal for the year was to treat each student with dignity and respect. My only request was that they treat each other and me in the same manner. That was it. I also said that on the last day of the school year, I was going to ask every student to hold me accountable. How did I do?

With that approach, I became a more effective teacher and facilitator, not an adversary to be defeated at all costs.

The applications of this approach for anyone who works within an institution are endless. The ills of society are showing up in record numbers. Governments are being cited as useless and hopeless because their work is being gummed up with inaction. And, the inaction appears intentional. We need new ways to interact with one another. If we were to dedicate ourselves to treating each other with mutual dignity and respect, we might be able to come together and begin finding solutions rather than adding to the growing number of problems.

What do you think? Can you see any applications for interacting more effectively with others? In families? In neighborhoods? In work places? In cities? In institutions? Among friends? Your comments are welcome.

Looking for Reading Recommendations?

We Had Our Reasons, by Ricardo Ruiz

(A Poetry Collection)

 I will occasionally post my recommendations for new poetry publications and other writings. I’ll start with new books that I find regionally.

My findings may be late to the party of new books but I want to share some of my discoveries.

I’ll start with a poet in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Ricardo Ruiz. He is the son of a migrant worker family in an Eastern Washington farming community. He was born in the United States, and his mother and father eventually gained legal resident status, while others in the community remained undocumented.

The source material for his poems are conversations he had with migrant worker families in his community. Some speak both Spanish and English, and others only speak Spanish. The book, We Had Our Reasons, is printed in both English and Spanish on alternating pages. Ruiz thinks of the book’s spine as the border between two countries.

Ruiz interviewed the people and the poems came from those conversations.

These poems are meant to be open conversations with others about an immigrant community’s experiences. Ruiz says, “It’s a start.”

We all need a way to start understanding one another. I like Ruiz’s approach using poetry. I’ve ordered my copy from Amazon.

#reading #poetry #immigrantfamilies

Late Spring Flooding

A Sonnet for Yellowstone

Driving to Yellowstone Park last week, we

Wanted to drive a short distance for lunch.

The day was overcast with gray skies and

Some rain showers, even some mixed hail stones.

 

A week later, warmer days and more rain

Changes the landscape when melting snowpack

Combines with rain seeking the Gardiner

River to build a rising flow of floods.

 

Water rises, eating away river

Bank soil and stone, devouring road supports.

Paved roads collapse into swirling mud flows.

People evacuate the Park and leave.

 

Yellowstone Park may remain closed this year–

Collapsed bridges, destroyed roads close access.

William Peters Reads a Poem

Listen as William Peters reads a poem from his 25-year collection of poems, Writing in Sand.

Forgotten Gift on Trenance’s Hillside 

 

Climbing the path above the 

The beach cove cliffs, I see  

A welcome hillside sight. 

 

A bench, with wooden posts 

Set into concrete support legs, 

Leans forward on the tilted slope

 

As if reaching out to me.  

 

The hillside grass is long and 

Invites me to come forward 

For a closer look. I’m ready.  

 

I walk up and sit on one end 

To rest. I am high above the 

Cove, the beach, and the surf.  

 

I sit, short sleeved, in the breeze.  

Waves below echo up to me.  

This pause in the sun is just right.  

 

On the other side of the bench 

I see what someone left behind  

In the sun. An unspotted banana 

 

And I sit together in the sun.  

We are here but not of here.  

We are here for a while and 

 

Then—

We are gone.  

https://1drv.ms/u/s!AsiHc69QlANdjxgLBBbU3fEmnyiB

Inspiring Young Readers

As a former English teacher in a public school, I always wanted to inspire my students to read. It was a never ending process of being a book salesman. I wanted them to read, not because they had to for a required assignment, but because they wanted to for their own personal tastes and interests.

I can remember a simple trick used by my high school librarian, many many years ago.  She sold new paperback books to students– usually a Cardinal Edition for 35 cents in the 1960’s. She got me hooked on reading Agatha Christie mystery books. I kept coming back for more. And I always made sure that I came to school with some spare change in my pockets.

I was truly surprised, recently, by what one of my readers shared with me. My 25 year collection of poetry was finally published this year. This reader bought a copy of my book, Writing in Sand. She told me that since receiving it, she has been reading it nearly every evening with one of her granddaughters. They take turns reading a line of one of my poems aloud to each other.

I can’t tell you how excited that makes me feel. As a teacher of over thirty years, I was constantly encouraging my students to read. I wrote poetry in my spare time while teaching 14 and 15-year-olds. And now that I have retired from the classroom and dedicated my time to writing, I feel as though I’m still inspiring Young Readers to cultivate a lifelong habit of reading. At least one grandparent, and grandchild are coming together to read to each other.

Poetry can do that for us– pull us in and keep us coming back for more.

Thanks for dropping by to read this post. What do you think? What experiences have you had with reading? Comments are welcome. I’d love to hear from you.

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