Conference Chair, Jan Morrill, was asked to find the poet for the 2013 conference. I know nothing of poetry. I've written two poems in my life. One was written in a creative writing class in college. It was so bad that the instructor decided to move the lesson plan on to the next subject. The second poem was written as a joke for my boyfriend. He broke up with me as a result. Now, that I think about it, maybe poetry is a blessing!
I digress (don't I always?) Jan contacted Mendy Knott to speak on poetry at the 45th Annual OWFI Conference. In addition to conducting a session, she's also going to arrange a POETRY SLAM! Woohoo. How cool is that?
Mendy agreed to answer a few nosy questions in order for us to get know her a little better. I have to say, she has the most interesting beginning to a writing career that I've heard in a long time.
1.How did you start your writing career?
I wanted to be a writer from the time I began to read seriously; say 4th or 5th grade. I loved biographies at the time, especially bios about writers and adventurers. Adventuring won out for a long time. I was policing for Atlanta Fulton County PD and was 35 years old. I had just lost 3 car thieves who led me first on a high speed car chase, then on foot through a bit of woods. I had the car but not the perps, and a cut on my hand that bled onto the blacktop at my feet. While waiting for back-up and an ambulance, I watched the drip of my blood like seconds on a watch tick off the time and decided then I would rather be a writer than a cop even if it meant writing in a broom closet and living in a cellar.
2.What was your first sale as an author?
I will never forget my first sale as an author. I was 38 and had written my first chapbook which contained maybe 6 poems at the most, but there were some dandies in there. My artist friend, Jane Voorhees, had designed the cover for "Profound, Profane, or Sacred." I was invited to read and lead a workshop at the Asheville Poetry Festival alongside greats like Marge Piercy and Joy Harjo. I was ecstatic. I made 50 copies of my chapbook, because as a bookseller that's all I could afford, and sold them for $5 each. I sold out and couldn't believe my good fortune as I felt that wad of $250 in my pocket. For the first time in my life, I said to myself, "I AM a poet."
3.When do you write, and how long?
I write first thing in the morning. I'm at it by 7 a.m. at the latest. I happily join a long line of bed-writers like Capote, Collette, Walker Percy, and Mark Twain. I write one hour at the very least and that is if I have appointments or non-writing work to do. I like to write for 2-4 hours and can do this happily with the light pouring in my windows, watching the birds at the feeder and as they bathe in the sun. However, revision requires a different part of my brain and a different setting. For this, I have a desk top computer and a tiny office dedicated to this necessary but more difficult process.
4. What's it like to be an author in 3 words?
Expectant, Exhilarating, Exhausting.
5.A passage from my book that gets to the heart of the matter.
From the book's title poem, "A Little Lazarus": "And that's how it was with the hummingbird./ Like some biblical Martha Stewart I worked, worked, worked/ while you performed a miracle./ Hard labor without love is just more work./ It's love that makes a miracle./ And the hummer perched upright now on your thumb/ not looking the least bit frightened, only stunned./ I watched as you touched your finger to that bright and shining feeder,/ drew back one glistening drop of sugar water and held it out to him./ He dipped his needle beak and sipped it from your fingertip,/ then flew. Just lifted up and flew/ as if he'd never been a broken body lying on a porch step,/ as if the sweetened water from a bright and shining feeder was a baptism/ and you a layer on of hands, healing/ with your quiet words of comfort/and a clean bird feeder."
6.I think people should read "A Little Lazarus" because there are a lot of people who have preconceived notions about what poetry is. My poems are designed to tell the reader a story; to share a world of images which we understand are often fraught with pain, but which also contain the simple miracles that make life not only bearable, but beautiful.