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|Ruth of Turtle Memoirs: RAD|
MAP: When I first visited Real Toads, the first posting I read was one of yours. What do you hope folks will remember about your blog?
RAD: That it reads true in some fundamental way, that they get a sense of ‘this is the way it is, or feels, in this moment, for this writer’ - because it is... But my aim is to have that... um, I guess, honesty of emotion... come through for the reader. And I don’t so much believe in universal truth, but I do believe in personal truth - mine, and yours, and yours... and the best I can possibly hope for (it seems to me) is that somehow my truth can join hands with something equally true in or for the reader. I know in my own reading of others, how precious such moments of recognition are.
MAP: What do you feel makes your work special? (It is special, you know!)
RAD: Readers have sometimes commented on what they see as my ability to portray emotion without overuse of sentimentality - and that is definitely something I aim for. And one way to do that is through imagery and understatement, which I like to think I’m getting better at. :)
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MAP: Your blog header says, "Afraid to trust, turtle abandons shell." That's such an interesting paradox! Why did you choose that saying to introduce your work?
RAD: It actually came out of a challenge several years ago (and in another venue) to write a six-word memoir (a series of mine live HERE). In a sense my whole life since early childhood has revolved around an inability to trust. There was a time - and this was before I started writing again - when I knew I must deal with this issue. So, how do you learn trust first as an (aging) adult? Well, you risk the ultimate, you risk what feels like your very life... For me, because I’d lost my voice in childhood, the biggest risk was to speak, to say, to tell my truth... The turtle thing, that’s a metaphor of course (but I remembered the turtle a childhood friend had gifted me with when we were both seven).
MAP: I also liked the reference to "words and silences." What do you discover in those silences? How do you express them later, if at all?
RAD: Silence comes much more easily to me than words. I sometimes feel as if I've spent my life in cloister, in silent retreat, and have been freed from the constraints of that - finally allowing myself voice has freed me from that. Silence is natural - nothing much to fear, no reprisals for saying the wrong thing, no judgment (except of course when you're with someone who can't abide silence...). In silence you can hear what nature (or your inner voice) has to tell you. Out of silence truths emerge, words are born... worlds are born.
MAP: You mentioned that you keep one foot in memoir. (I do that, too, but often both feet!) Does memoir take you in different directions when you write?
RAD: When I'm writing I don’t make things up, but neither do I restrict myself to what one might think of as the definitive ‘true’ version of some event or situation in my life (there always seem so many versions, don't there?). Let's see, in terms of strict (two-footer) memoir there's who do you really remember? Often I'll start writing from a particular memory, but then the writing may choose to detour, take another direction, as you say. I allow that veering off - that’s why I say ‘one foot’ - if I didn’t allow it I’d probably be back to not writing at all. So, something like stone faces is a one-footer - and I won’t say exactly where in the latter my truth ended and someone else's took over. But does it really matter? Because there's nothing there that some someone couldn't say 'true' to, even if the whole is not, strictly speaking, in my life story.
MAP: Your poetry is image-rich; what settings do you find the most inspiring? Have you a preferred poetic style?
RAD: Ideas are everywhere, in everything... Looking out my second-storey window I see... walking to town I hear... and what’s that I smell? (lilacs!) or, why am I humming this particular song right now, here... There are way more ideas than there is time to write them up. And the world of Nature inspires. What I can see, hear, or perhaps only imagine, in the environment where I live on Vancouver Island - so, the long southern coast I love to walk, coves, parks, trees, birds, animals, whatever else speaks to me along the way.
I'm very fond of imagism and have been experimenting with its strict interpretation recently (borders? what borders? is, I think, my best attempt so far). But I find I'm always wanting to interpret what I see, which (it seems to me) is a way of directing the reader in his or her reading (aaargh!!!). With more words, I mean, as opposed to with subtle manipulation of what's imaged - the latter being a much stronger way of writing, in my opinion.
MAP: Have you a favorite poet?
RAD: Well, I love many poets, old and new, but what I really have is favourite poems that I return to again and again. But okay, Mary Oliver, Matthew Arnold, TS Eliot, so many more. I'm a great admirer of Shakespeare, Keats, the Brownings, ... Rumi. Basho. And recently, I’ve been loving Allen Ginsberg, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams. (Aaaah! don’t make me choose :) )
MAP: I'm interested in your writing process; do you set aside times for writing, or do you compose your poems at various times?
RAD: No-one was more surprised than I, when for several years in a row, I completed NaNoWriMo - writing 50000 words in the space of a month, which pretty much means having to sit and write three to four pages every day in order to finish. But that’s not my usual modus operandi. I write when something wants to be written, and most often, that occurs when I’m doing something else - taking a bath, walking, washing dishes (I just have to make sure I have a pencil and paper when the words spill out). This is generally true even when there's a particular prompt I want to write to, though sometimes I just sit and scribble, or let my fingers tap keys - it's surprising what can come up this way. Occasionally I'll wake up in the morning with lines or fragments of a poem sitting in my consciousness, as I write about in words to wake up to. I love when that happens.
MAP: As writers we tend to be introspective. What have you learned about yourself through your writing?
RAD: Everything. I've learned to know and be best friends with who I am. I’ve learned to not be afraid of what I see, to not be afraid to say what I see. I've learned that it's okay to break rules, to split infinitives (as I did in the previous sentence), to go with my gut. I've learned that first you let the monsters out, then you get to glean the gold they were sitting on. I’ve learned that there are many truths. I’ve learned that I am more than my story, more than Cinderella sitting in the cinders of a past others foisted on her...
Many thanks to Ruth for sharing her thoughts on the creative process. Follow the link to read one of her favorite poems: Awakenings (inside outside eyes).
Ruth was interviewed by Mary Ann Potter.