I spoke with featured poet, Cheryl Baldi, about her poetry writing process and her latest writing endeavors. Here’s what she had to say. LF: Do you remember writing your first poem? CB: Yes, I do remember well writing my first poem. I was in third grade. It was the night before Halloween, and I wrote a poem titled "Halloween Night," which I read in school the next day during the class party. So my first poem and my first reading!
LF: Who or what are some of your favorite creative influences? CB: First and foremost other writers, especially poets: Larry Levis, Stanley Kunitz, Ellen Voigt. Recently I have been reading a good bit of Mary Oliver and late work by C.K. Williams and Merwin. Ideas often come to me when I am reading, and the imagery in poetry and the music in the language help to open me.
LF: Could you describe your creative process for writing poetry? CB: Well, sitting down at my desk to write is the critical piece, and I have long periods where I don't write. But I've come to recognize that I write seasonally, beginning in spring through summer into fall. In winter I read and make notes, mark passages in books that I want to remember. I used to write long hand on a yellow legal pad, but I now begin on the computer writing quickly, a stream of consciousness, that often begins with an image or an idea, or some emotion that I am feeling and want to explore. After the "first draft" on the computer, I tinker with a pencil directly on the draft, then go back to the computer. I also have learned to give myself permission to write about those things that haunt me, even when it feels like I am writing the same poem over and over again.
LF: At what point do you decide to stop revising your work? CB: I had a teacher who always said, "It's all a draft until you die." But I find I do reach a point where the poem feels done. It usually is at this point when I rely on one of my trusted readers to look at the poem and offer suggestions, but once I am ready to share a poem, I know I am ready to let go of it.
LF: What are you working on now? CB: I am revising older poems about childhood, my own as well as my children's. And based on several new drafts, I think this is heading toward a larger exploration of motherhood.
LF: Why is poetry important in the world? CB: I think it soothes us. At least for me, I find poetry slows time down and quiets me. And it reminds me of our interconnectedness to one another, to the natural world, something that is increasingly essential today.
LF: What do you hope readers take away from your poetry? CB: I hope they feel a connection or attention to the world and our shared experience of it.