Q&A with Sage Cohen, Author of

Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry

a new book from Writer’s Digest Books

How does poetry make the world a better place to live?

I think poetry fills the gap left by the so-called objective truth that dominates our media, science and legislation. Many of us want to comprehend and communicate the complexity of human experience on a deeper, more soulful level. Poetry gives us a shared language that is more subtle, more human, and—at its best—more universally “true” than we are capable of achieving with just the facts.

How has integrating the reading and writing of poetry into your life impacted you?

I will risk sounding melodramatic in saying that poetry saved my life. I stumbled into a writing practice at an extremely vulnerable time in my early teenage years. Poetry gave me then, as it does today, a way of giving voice to feelings and ideas that felt too risky and complicated to speak out loud. There was a kind of alchemy in writing through such vulnerabilities…by welcoming them in language, I was able to transform the energies of fear, pain and loneliness into a kind of friendly camaraderie with myself. In a way, I wrote myself into a trust that I belonged in this world.

Do people need an advanced degree in creative writing in order to write poetry?

Absolutely not! Sure, poetry has its place in the classroom; but no one needs an advanced degree in creative writing to reap its rewards. What most people need is simply a proper initiation. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to offer such an initiation. My goal was that everyone who reads it come away with a sense of how to tune into the world around them through a poetic lens. Once this way of perceiving is awakened, anything is possible!

Why did you write Writing the Life Poetic?

While working with writers for the past fifteen years, I have observed that even the most creative people fear that they don’t have what it takes to write and read poetry. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to put poetry back into the hands of the people––not because they are aspiring to become the poet laureate of the United States––but because poetry is one of the great pleasures in life.”

Who is Writing the Life Poetic written for?

Practicing poets, aspiring poets, and teachers of writing in a variety of settings can use Writing the Life Poetic to write, read, and enjoy poems; it works equally well as a self-study companion or as a classroom guide. Both practical and inspirational, it will leave readers with a greater appreciation for the poetry they read and a greater sense of possibility for the poetry they write.

What sets Writing the Life Poetic apart from other poetry how-to books?

The craft of poetry has been well documented in a variety of books that offer a valuable service to serious writers striving to become competent poets. Now it’s time for a poetry book that does more than lecture from the front of the classroom. Writing the Life Poetic was written to be a contagiously fun adventure in writing. Through an entertaining mix of insights, exercises, expert guidance and encouragement, I hope to get readers excited about the possibilities of poetry––and engaged in a creative practice. Leonard Cohen says: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” My goal is that Writing the Life Poetic be the flame fueling the life well lived.

What makes a poem a poem?

This is one of my favorite questions! I’ve answered it in my book, but it’s a question that I’m answering anew every day. And that’s what I love about poetry. It’s a realm where invention is not limited entirely by definition; there is room enough for the endless possibilities of the human. Every time we try to draw a line around what a poem is, something spills over into the next frame, shifting the point of view and demanding new names: olive, token, flax, daffodil. A poem is all of these, or none of them, depending on the quality of light and how the blade in the next room stirs the night.

What do you think people’s greatest misperceptions are about poetry?

I think the three greatest stereotypes about the writing of poetry are:

  1. That one has to be a starving artist or deeply miserable to write great poetry.
  2. That reading and writing poetry are available only to an elite inner circle that shares secret, insider knowledge about the making of poems.
  3. That poetry does not fund prosperity.

I hope very much that Writing the Life Poetic helps offer alternatives to some of these attitudes and perceptions.

I’d love to conclude with a poem of yours. Would you be willing to share one?

Of course! Happy to!

Leaving Buckhorn Springs

By Sage Cohen

The farmland was an orchestra,

its ochres holding a baritone below

the soft bells of farmhouses,

altos of shadowed hills,

violins grieving the late

afternoon light. When I saw

the horses, glazed over with rain,

the battered old motorcycle parked

beside them, I pulled my car over

and silenced it on the gravel.

The rain and I were diamonds

displacing appetite with mystery.

As the horses turned toward me,

the centuries poured through

their powerful necks and my body

was the drum receiving the pulse

of history. The skin between me

and the world became the rhythm

of the rain keeping time with the sky

and into the music walked

the smallest of the horses. We stood

for many measures considering

each other, his eyes the quarter notes

of my heart’s staccato. This symphony

of privacy and silence: this wildness

that the fence between us could not divide.

About Sage Cohen

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. An award-winning poet, she writes four monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Sage co-curates a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. To learn more, visit www.writingthelifepoetic.com. Drop by and join in the conversation about living and writing a poetic life at www.writingthelifepoetic.typepad.com!

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

The Fixer

The air is
sticky
and hot
like the tears
streaming down
my face.
Oxygen is in short
supply,
the car windows
remain sealed to
stifle my cries.
I cannot possibly
understand
my predicament
or what to do
next.
I am,
after all
an expert fixer
with the ability to
solve even the most chaotic
of life
circumstances.
It is my specialty
if you will.
But, this one,
this conflict is
one that foils
even me.
It is the fight within
myself
It is the desire to
go deep
Go where I have
yet to go before
To solve the mystery
of who I really am
All
By
My
Self.
Is there anything
more terrifying?
I drive on,
Sticky tears
and all.

© 2009 Heather Strang
All rights reserved.

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

The Glow

Laying amidst the
glow
Of our love
I ponder
Several important
concerns:
What if
this were
It?
What if
my life,
my precious life
consisted of only
these
intimate moments?
If I never
knew more than
a handful
of folks?
If I only ever
wrote
poetry from my heart
and chatted
on the phone
with strangers
the rest of my life?
Would I be
complete?
Would your name be enough
for me to utter?
Would our life be
enough for
my soul?
If only I
knew the
answers
to these pressing questions.
Perhaps then
I would not lay
in the glow of our love
my mind racing
with these
thoughts,
while you
slept.

© 2009 Heather Strang
All rights reserved.

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

The Color Blue

Blue
The color of
the ocean
the garden pool
my favorite shirt
and your eyes
Blue
How I feel when
you don’t call
or you do call
and have nothing
to say
Blue
Radiates
from my eyes to
yours
Immersed in a
pool of deep
Blue.

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

The Girl With My Life

Her hair is
blonde
and curly
her legs
long
and sexy.
She has my life,
you know.
Her days are spent
shopping
lunching
flirting
and looking
fabulous.
Men can’t keep their eyes
off of her
and neither
can I.
Her secret is
simple:
she is magic.
She doesn’t
care,
she is completely
detached
from outcomes
or the need for
others to
want her.
And so,
they
do.

Damn,
that girl
is smart.

I missed magical day #13, my sincerest apologies. The day got away from me, and around 2am I realized I had forgotten. It was suddenly day 14 and I simply didn’t have it in me. 🙂

Rock on NaPoWriMo.
xo

Happy Writing!
Heather 🙂

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

Where I Come From

Cows
Manure
Farms
That’s where I come from.
Top Ramen
Kraft Mac-n-cheese
Hostess Suzie Q’s
That’s where I come from.
Small town
Big trucks
Little ambition
That’s where I come from.
Bonfires at the beach
Camping by the river
Slices of Main Street Pizza
That’s where I come from.
Spiral perms
Leg warmers
Aqua blue scrunchies
There is no end to where I come from.

© 2009 Heather Strang
All rights reserved.

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

If you prefer to prepare your own Easter Sunday breakfast, there’s a great healthy option for you to try – gluten-free waffles with fresh fruit. It’s rich, decadent and totally healthy. Even better, it’s simple to create!

Here’s the scoop:

-Use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake mix.

-Be sure to use organic/vegetarian fed eggs.

-Try unsweetened almond milk as a healthy milk option. I love Blue Diamond Natural.

-Add organic frozen blueberries (like Cascadian Farm) or fresh strawberries. You can add these to the mix, or serve on the side.

-Slather with Smart Balance butter and organic maple syrup.

-Serve wit herbal tea – peppermint is a fantastic option.

Happy Easter & Happy Eating!

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

Gray Hair

Gray hair,
No more

Paradise!

Seriously, when I was living in Portland I had gray hairs popping up like no other. I was continuously plucking (and cursing!) them. Since moving to Hawaii, they seem to have vanished! It’s pretty amazing. Apparently island life eliminates the aging of hair. Who would have thought?!

xoHeather

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

Silent Space

It seems as though you’ve lost your way
It seems as though I cannot stay
But here we are
One unit
Fully combined
Household goods
And sacred vows.
I wonder
Can I hold you in this still
silent space?
Can I reach you when there is
no where to reach?
When your soul
is barely audible
When my soul is
busy doing what it has always
done…
The music plays
And my hips sway
You touch my face
I am empty.
You are silent
Still.

© 2009 Heather Strang
All rights reserved.

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More

Here’s scientific fact about what I’ve been saying all along!
I lost 20 pounds in 3 weeks when I removed wheat from my diet. Our bodies can’t process this food and so hold onto it as fat.

Read about it on Medical News Today.

Happy Eating!
Heather 🙂

Posted by Heather Kristian Strang in Uncategorized Read More