Thursday, July 30, 2015

Be Bold and Trust Your Unique Gifts: From an Interview with Anita Grace Brown

 Welcome to The Women Behind The Poetry, where we interview women from the 'Journey of The Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry Project'! 

Today we introduce you to Anita Grace Brown, a yoga teacher, mother of two teens and wife of 23 years who believes that life is full of surprises and hopes to continue embracing all the gifts life presents before her. 

I began meditating after a visit to the neurologist when I was concerned about memory and focus issues at the age of 46. Shortly after establishing a regular Centering Prayer practice, the poems began forming on their own. What a healing gift!!

I love writing about nature and healing the most. All of nature speaks volumes with regard to how the simplicity of being is mirrored in watching a leaf fall from a tree or listening to a bird sing, for example.

I usually don’t hesitate to share my poems, as for me there has been this uncanny certainty that the poetry comes from a deep place desiring exposure and release from day one. That the words continue to reveal deeper wisdom as time goes on. That I can trust the message even if my initial understanding is superficial.

I don’t write every day (although I would like to!!) so I generally write when I feel as if something in me is stuck and needs coaxing. Writing and sharing my poetry has facilitated deep healing with regard to shadowy aspects of myself.

Regarding reading poems by others, I love anything by Mary Oliver, Rumi, Hafiz and of course our first anthology!! (found here) Such readings give me a calm recognition of our interconnectedness.

Before sharing my poem here, on the Journey of The Heart Poetry Project, I boldly submitted to Elephant Journal and they have gone on to publish much of my work as well…I feel so blessed!!

I just love sharing my poetry here as the way the words are matched with gorgeous visuals inspires me. Also, the women are always so supportive and encouraging.

I would like to add that you may be wondering if your voice is needed in the world and I am here to say that there is a seat at the table for everyone…including you! Be bold and trust your unique gifts!!!!

(Anita Grace's poetry appears in our new anthology found here
Photograph by Robert Sturman
Anita Grace Brown is a content mother of two teenagers and wife of 23 years, both of which she is grateful for every day. She began writing poetry in the fall of 2012 after a mini-breakdown cracked open her heart and allowed this newly found gift to shine through. Many months later, she is realizing the truth in the saying that ‘breakdown equals spiritual awakening’ as she is pleasantly shocked at how much more peace she has in her spirit and how that is reflected in her life.  Anita loves yoga, dancing, traveling, cooking, walking her golden Sierra, and quiet evenings at home. She especially enjoys teaching meditation to under-served communities and listening to others as they express the same joy at the transformation occurring from such simple but regular practice.


~If you are one of the poetesses from 'Journey of the Heart', and would like to appear in this blog, just click here to request an interview. We are excited to learn more about you!~

~If you write poetry and would like to share it on 'Journey of The Heart', click here for submission -guidelines. And thank you for your interest!~  

Friday, July 24, 2015

We All Have Poetry Flowing Through Us: From an Interview With Tracie Nichols

Welcome to The Women Behind The Poetry, where we interview women from the 'Journey of The Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry Project'! 

Today we introduce you to the inspired Tracie Nichols who is wild for green wilderness, moonlight and reminding us to commune with the sacred Earth. 

I was eleven when I wrote my first heart-cracked-open-wide poem. 

Ostensibly, it was an assignment from my art teacher. Looking back, I think it was the Universe priming my poetic pumps.

We were asked to write a poem in response to an art film of stampeding horses. The film was a torrent of close-ups of wild eyes, mud spraying, masses of jostling backs and heads and colts falling behind, all to a relentless soundtrack of hooves hitting turf and frightened, excited, squeals, neighs, and grunts. It was visceral. Powerful. Dangerous. I remember my heart thundering nearly as loudly as their hooves.

Then, words pounded out of somewhere deep in my core into my hand with the same torrential rhythm of the hoofbeats I’d just witnessed. I had no idea what was happening, but like the colts, I was swept along on those words, watching as they wrote themselves in my notebook.

Afterwards I wasn’t sure if I was excited, ecstatic, or terrified. All of them, I think. I just knew I wanted to do it again. Even though I didn’t have the words to describe it, some part of me knew I’d touched a resonating strand of the sacred. Since then it feels like every poem I write weaves me more closely into communion with Oneness.

Poems are full body/soul experiences for me. They start as a tingling or humming in my muscles, and usually percolate up through my heart until they burble out of my mouth or hands. 

Sometimes, though, they get stuck. That’s a bit like verbal heartburn, honestly. Some never make it beyond their initial tingling hum. I sometimes wonder whimsically if my marrow makes poems as it’s making blood cells and if some future x-ray might reveal a few stray stanzas.

I’m truly inspired by my own experiences, both internal and external.

I pass a few crow feathers standing in the grass and noticing that sends me into wondering….

Who were you
            when you

Why did you
            leave them

While the pain of a turbulent childhood etches itself into...

There are screams inside.

They’re trapped
in my bones.

Secured by
so they don’t
sidle out.

There are so many holes
some of my bones whistle, now.

I’m a bone-flute woman.
I moan when the wind blows.

While there are definitely some poems I’ll never publish, as long as it feels like sharing the poem will help make the world better for people or our beloved planet, nowadays I usually take a deep breath and do it. Though poems like Bone Flute Woman, (excerpt above) where I’m feeling flayed and infinitely vulnerable, can be hard to share publicly.

Before stumbling on the Journey of The Heart Poetry Project, I had very quietly shared a few poems on a personal blog with a tiny readership. Since Catherine accepted my first poem, though, I’ve found a new confidence in my writing and in myself.

With a background in Transformative Learning I’m fascinated by the rhythmic process of moving through life changes, so it’s no surprise that one of the most common themes underpinning the poetry I write is personal evolution.

Poems help me blaze trails through terrain that both explains and expands the essence of who I am.

I use poetry to help me navigate, and to help make sense of the ebbs and flows of a constantly changing life. Staying curious, looking with eyes and a heart willing to be awed, this is what helps me find a poem in everything from a simple feather to complex relationships.

I firmly believe everyone has poetry flowing through them. 

Whether it comes out as words, or in colors, yarn, fabric, HTML or other code, theoretical math, cuisine, inventions, or something else, releasing the poetry humming in our bones helps us explain ourselves to ourselves, and helps us introduce ourselves to the world.

Life flows tidally. It seems we’re always navigating incoming or outgoing waves of change. My poetry weaves a sturdy boat for me to ride those waves with my curiosity and confidence as sails, often shouting “huzzah!” into the wind.

Where does your poetry take you?
Tracie Nichols has written poetry since she was 11 years old. While most of her early works are gone (this is probably a good thing) she continues to scribble poems at odd hours about everything from the state of her soul to the sounds of her kitchen. In truth, though, her poetic heart belongs to the deep green places of our wildly, fiercely, sacred, earth. When she isn’t making poetry with words she’s listening to the whispers of the green world, making alchemy with plants and stones and moonlight wildness. Tracie blogs, shares resources and generally nurtures at her website here. Connect with her also on Twitter or Facebook. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Writing From The Heart: From An Interview With Ginny Brannan

Welcome to The Women Behind The Poetry, where we interview women from the 'Journey of The Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry Project'! 

Today we introduce you to the lovely Native New Englander and country girl, Ginny Brannan, who believes that it's never too late to pursue something you love! 

I discovered poetry in High School.

I went to an open-concept school, pretty forward thinking for the small Vermont town where I grew up in the 1970’s, and Poetry was one of our class choices for English.

 I loved reading and studying the classic poets, but when it came to writing our own poetry, I felt stifled; discouraged by a teacher who was more about her own vision of structure and content rather than encouraging our creative expression.  

Disheartened, I shelved my own writing, and many years would pass before I would seriously attempt to write poetry again.

Fast forward to 2009: after losing my job of 18 years and spending several discouraging months job hunting, I had fallen into a rather dark place. My brother and dear friend suggested I attempt to write again, to express what I was feeling, and suddenly I discovered a creative outlet for the emotional roller coaster I was on.

For me, poetry has had a cathartic and healing effect on my life. When I was at my lowest it pulled me up, helping me to find perspective and balance again.

I find that my writing flows best when I draw from what I know, whether it is what I am feeling, where I’ve come from, what is around me or touching my life at any given moment.

I also find great pleasure in trying to capture in words the beauty of the place where I live— the ever-changing seasons, the flora and fauna of my New England home. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, and have discovered that in writing what I know, that the words flow naturally.

The hardest topics I’ve written about are the ones that make my heart ache.

 I wrote several poems through my sister-in-law’s struggle with cancer and eventual passing ranging from frustration, to anger, to the eventual acceptance of her choices and what was to come. I have written and captured current headlines from the Aurora, CO theater shooting, to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT, to the loss of the Robin Williams, one most brilliant actors and comedians of our time. I also work with the elderly and often write of their struggles with aging and loneliness—important topics—but also a sad and constant reminder of the road we will all be facing one day.

The inspiration for my poetry comes from many places: more often than not from real life events— something happening in my own life or from the news of that day.

Perhaps a place I’m going or somewhere I have been will call me to pick up my pen. Sometimes photo or an image will pull up memories or emotions from the past to prompt a poem. I find that my best writing comes when I tap my inner self and examine the feelings and emotions that an idea evokes.

In my experience, I have learned that forcing words leaves a piece feeling ‘flat,’ whereas drawing from my inner being—exposing a piece of myself and allowing it enter into what I am writing—allows the poem to live, to breathe.

My biggest hesitation with sharing my writing is that ultimate feeling of ‘vulnerability;’ the fear of being judged, criticized, and torn apart as not being “good enough,” a feeling that stems from the low self-esteem I felt in my childhood years.

Losing my mom at an early age and being raised by my dad, I frequently felt awkward and lacking of the social graces that my peers seemed to be endowed with. This turned out be both a blessing and a curse—I learned to be independent, self-reliant and developed a tough outer skin, but I also learned to hold many feelings and emotions inside.

Spiritually, the gift that poetry has given me is that it has allowed me to examine and express my past, my life, and has endowed me with the balance I have always craved but never knew where to find until I started writing.

There are many poets and writers who have influence me and have had a profound effect on my writing. I have an affinity for classic form poetry, such as the Villanelle; ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath is a favorite of mine. I am very fond of all of Emily Dickinson’s works; an under-appreciated poet during her time, she made her home in Amherst, MA just short distance north of where I reside. My “darker side” loves the writings of Poe.  

My all-time favorite poet is Robert Frost, whose words capture my New England home and lifestyle as no other poet ever has.

The words, the passion, the honesty that shines in the works of these poets continually inspires me to follow in their footsteps and write what I am passionate about.

 I feel exceptionally blessed and honored to have been invited by Catherine Ghosh to share my work at Journey of the Heart and to be a part of such an amazing community of contemporary female poets.

Also I would be remiss not mention the many other writers and friends in today’s poetry community whom I have come know to admire— men and women who aren’t afraid to share a piece of their hearts in their words.  

Whenever a piece of writing stays with me or touches me in some way, it inspires me to strive for improvement in my own work; my ultimate hope being that perhaps my words will touch and inspire others as their words have inspired me.

My best advice to new poets and writers starting out on this path is to write with honesty and passion from the inside out; write what you know, what you feel.

Write from your heart. Do not obsess over perfection—form, format and meter come with time.

 Just reach out and embrace your creative side, let the words flow, and never let criticism from others discourage you from following the path of your poetic journey.
Virginia “Ginny” Brannan, a self-described native New Englander and country girl, resides in Massachusetts with her husband of 34 years, her grown son and five cats—2 domestic indoor cats whom she adopted, and 3 feral outdoor cats who ‘adopted’ her!! Growing up an only child, she was blessed at age 16 to be welcomed into a “family of the heart,” who embraced her as their own. She describes herself on her blog as: “…coming to this ‘dance’ a bit later than some, but the most important thing is she’s come ” proving that it is never too late to pursue something you love! You can find Ginny on her blog Inside Out Poetry  here, listen to her recite her poems here or connect with her Ginny on twitter or Google plus here. Ginny has been published in The D’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, Journey of the Heart: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry by Women, And is proud and honored to be included in the soon-to-be released “Where Journey’s Meet: The Voice of Women’s Poetry” to be available from Dragonfly Press. Our “sisterhood” rocks!!

~If you are one of the poetesses from 'Journey of the Heart', and would like to appear in this blog, just click here to request an interview. We are excited to learn more about you!~

~If you write poetry and would like to share it on 'Journey of The Heart', click here for submission -guidelines. And thank you for your interest!~  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Our Words Are Our Strongest Weapons: From an Interview With Alise Versella

Welcome to The Women Behind The Poetry, where we interview women from the 'Journey of The Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry Project'! 

Today we introduce you to the young and compassionate poet Alise Versella, who passionately believes that poetry has the power to hold us up when we can't find a firm foundation to stand on. 

I first began writing poetry in the 6th grade after watching A Ring of Endless Light on television and the Color of Friendship. The congressman's speech at the end of that movie brought an 11 year old me to tears and that was when I discovered the power of words.

It’s easy for me to write poems on any subject, really. I’m inspired by life, music, cinema, the news and the stories of individuals. If it’s something I’ve personally experienced, it becomes even easier for me to write about it.

I consider myself an empathic person so I often write poems about the experiences of others, giving them a voice.

Today I'd say the subject of race is harder for me to write about, I have so much to say but can't figure out the right words with which to say it.

My biggest fear in sharing my poetry is that my words could literally get me in big trouble, but I think I am not famous enough yet for too many important people to care too much about what I write, so I send it out into the ether regardless. And I just do it all for me, I have something to say and I said it. That's how I move beyond it. I am a writer first and foremost. The public doesn't have to like what I say but it's important I find the strength to say it anyway.

Through writing poetry I have discovered that I am strong, that I am powerful. Words heal wounds and bring us out of our darkness and into the light.

Sometimes when I'm writing a piece I feel like I am no longer in control of my pen: That I have been possessed by a higher being or maybe just a heightened version of myself. I find religion in poetry, in the cathartic release of those words that just expel from me beyond my control. I consider that time "possessed" as a spiritual process.

Writing poetry has helped me cope through the many trials of life; my poetry has served as the mile markers on the road that is my life.

I find it impossible to keep a journal so I write poetry instead.

Reading the poems of others has an inspiring and calming effect on me; it's like listening to a really good song on the radio that gives me goose bumps. I love T.S Eliot, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg and The Rose of Battle by Yeats. I have a portion of that one memorized! A poem called Becca inspired my third book. Ferlinghettis's Alienation: two bees. Ian Thomas's book I wrote this for you: pleasefindthis is superb!

I was first invited to the Journey of the Heart Poetry Project by Catherine Ghosh who asked me to submit a poem to spotlight my latest book release, for which I'm forever grateful. I have published three poetry book: Five Foot Voice, Onion Heart, A Few Wild Stanzas. I’ve also had my work featured on Rebelle Society and a Writers-editors online contest.

Being published in the Journey of The Heart project felt wonderful to me, as I loved being showcased alongside so many bright, talented women whose work I'd seen appear across many internet venues.

This is a project full of beautiful women speaking their minds and coming together to create. Creation is the most beautiful thing!

It is an honor to be part of this project and to have my poems picked for the new anthology Where Journeys Meet: The Voice of Women’s Poetry.

 It is a thrill to be offered the opportunity to send my words out to be read by others in hopes that they will mean something to someone, that they could help someone, just like the words of others have helped and inspired me.

I am young and still finding my way and who I am is changing day to day. But I'm learning my core values and my mission is becoming somewhat about teaching people the power of poetry.

Our words are our strongest weapons and that no one can take that away from us.

Alise Versella is a 24 year old poet living in the pinelands of New Jersey. Poetry has always been the ether in her veins and the oxygen she breathes. It is her Five Foot Voice, her Onion Heart, as she peels back the layers of herself like a lotus unfurling its petals in order to grow fully in the waters that can sometimes weigh her down. She writes poetry to find herself and save the world. Her hope it that her poetry saves someone’s world from crumbling. Alise believes art has the power to hold us up when we can’t find the legs to stand. You can visit Alise on her Facebook page here or her website here. Her third volume of poetry, A Few Wild Stanzas, is available here. 


~If you are one of the poetesses from 'Journey of the Heart', and would like to appear in this blog, just click here to request an interview. We are excited to learn more about you!~

~If you write poetry and would like to share it on 'Journey of The Heart', click here for submission -guidelines. And thank you for your interest!~