I spoke with featured poet Jo Freehand about creativity and the importance of poetry in the world. Here's what she shared.
LF: Do you remember writing your first poem? JF: I do remember writing that grade-school, perfectly cliché, first poem. I was especially proud about how it looked. It was one word per line, penciled down the center of the page: Do/not/deny/that/you/can/fly/like/a/bird/high/in/the/sky/until/you/try. After writing it, I thought, “It’s rising like a bird on the page!” Cliché as it was, there were moments when it carried me, for many years. Maybe it still does.
LF: Who are some of your favorite poetic influences? JF: Yikes! Where to start? The bravery and craftsmanship of Chris Bursk has been a long-time poetic influence. Spoken word poets are also among my favorite influences, along with singer-song writers (Ferron, Dylan, Van Morrison). Abstract expressionists and surrealist painters, too. And, it’s funny, somehow, even though I’m not Christian, gospel singers and preachers also top my list of poetic influences.
LF: Could you describe your creative writing process? JF: Is there a process? Well, I have a constant ‘that would make a good poem’ going on. That may be the only constant in my writing process. After that, I suppose, it comes down to whatever it takes. Whatever it takes often involves a hula hoop or looping the same song for ten-minutes or taking a long walk or pacing my living room. Anything that eliminates that feeling of merely being a head held up by a pair of shoulders. I mean, anything that brings my awareness deeper into my body and, therefore, deepens my connection to the present moment, is part of my creative process, even if that’s simply wiggling my toes and feeling my feet on the floor. It has nothing to do with higher consciousness. It’s the opposite. It’s about lowering my consciousness; lowering as in gut level, and that usually involves some sort of movement. Before that happens, my writing feels forced and contrived. Maybe being alive is my creative writing process.
LF: What are you working on now? Any upcoming plans? JF: Since this year’s release of Whatever You Thought, Think Again, I’ve been playing with fiction (in prose and poetry). I think it has something to do with the pendulum swinging and some necessary equalizing.
LF: Why is poetry important in the world? JF: I think that poetry and all forms of art are important because it is way of allowing the world to flow through. It’s a way of engaging and saying, “This is my experience of being alive in this world at this very moment.”
LF: What do you hope readers take away from your poems? JF: Life is hard, brutal even. People can be cruel. Whatever you thought, think again. Life is also worth choosing to take another breath. There is good, goodness, and so many beautiful people.