Residing in northern California has a maddening amount of rewards, and one of them is the wealth of poets and writers (actually, artists of all kinds) living around us. In the last of our interviews with WordFire 2014 presenters, poet Susan Wooldridge speaks of poetry, living in northern California, and writing.
Wooldridge plays with words. She shows us poetry arrives in many shapes and forms. There are gardens of words all around us that can be seen with fresh eyes and fresh hearts. The seeds are there, we only have to water them to see the growth.
Wooldridge calls Chico home, yet she travels abroad often. Regardless of location, one continuum that connects her to poetry is the natural beauty of living. As Wooldridge put it when we spoke by phone, “We can create a field in and around us that’s fertile territory for poems, playing with words we can get to the place where poems come from.”
Jeanne Walleman (JW): Chico is so rich in images, and in your work, I see that you come up with prompts just by observing the world around you.
Susan Wooldridge (SW): Gary Snyder wrote: querencia. Love of place, love of where you are, “find your place on a planet and dig in.” I love that word. Foolsgold [Susan’s most recent book] opens where two worlds come together. Edges of creeks where water meets land. Bees stop to drink, birds stand in water, a fox pauses to drink, damselflies.
JW: “Suddenly walls disappear” You wrote that line in poemcrazy. What makes your walls disappear?
SW: That came from images of a Magritte painting of clouds inside a room. Poems arrive. They hide in feelings and images, in weeds and delivery vans, daring us to notice and give them form with our words.
JW: Do you see your direction when you begin, or do you just flow with the rhythm of the words?
SW: I do more than one kind of writing. If you have a point you lose the heart of it. I write in small essays. I get a buzz – I write to discover what it says to me.
JW: This is your second time at WordFire. What was your experience the first time, and what do you expect this go around?
SW: I am very impressed with the community college atmosphere. Lots of energy, enthusiasm. I do many workshops and have found ways of encouraging word connections that work on many levels.
JW: I loved the exercises you did at Juvenile Hall, the word tickets, blendings of word names were so revealing and such an enlightening experience for the children, spreading words and images to those who have rhythm in their souls.
SW: What works on one level, works for all levels. Most of us have been traumatized as children in our creative lives. By gathering words we create word pools and connections with ourselves and others. By inviting language into their lives, I’ve discovered people learn to love language.
JW: In poemcrazy, you write about seeing “opening shots” as movie scenarios. Beginnings, “openers” that can take one somewhere, like “portals into another dimension.” This image spoke to me. I can see short blasts of scenarios connecting and leading us on to the next scene.
SW: Sometimes you see changes after it’s already done. I would have rather placed that passage in the chapter “Controlled Abandon.”
JW: What’s next?
SW: I enjoy not knowing where it’s going. Now I have the luxury to let words come.