In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what poet Patricia Horn O’Brien had to say:
How did you come to being a poet?
I barely remember, except that time, sometime in high school that I fell madly (Yes, madly!) in love with a football player who, my father wondered, could possibly have the brainpower to play quarterback. In my broken heartedness I wrote a poem…something about walking away…slowly. Sadly. Well, you know…
Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
I’m not sure this is the same poem as the footballer poem but here’s the opening line…“What makes you smile, oh, fat faced moon….” Like that.
What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
Over the years I’ve kept journals…sort of essays, I guess, trying to make sense of life’s day-to-day gifts…and more often, challenges. This daily routine has helped me to stay curious. Thankful. Heartened. Or, when disheartened, to have a place to work it through.
My other “creative pursuit” I like to think, was my work as a social worker in the community of inner cities…New York and Bridgeport…where I learned to listen well, to widen my embrace of suffering and to find endless sources of wisdom, kindness, bravery and all the rest.
With my son and family, I recently wrote a memoir about my surrendering my son, Richard, for adoption and finding him 20 years later. The Laughing Rabbit: A Mother, or Son, and the Ties That Bind. Writing that book was facilitated by my longstanding habit of keeping a journal…a story, after all, is just that! BTW many poems I’d written over the years kept intruding themselves into my story. At first, I shooed them away. Then, I decided that they were intrinsic to our saga and I decided to let them have their say. I’m so glad I did!.
What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
The accidental death of my younger brother in an automobile accident (he was in his 30s) was an event that dropped me to my knees and brought me to my typewriter over and over again, looking for understanding. Comfort. To find the place of our story in humanity’s saga…We are, of course, not the only ones to suffer.
How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
About 14 – 15 years. One of my first meetings was at Pat Bullard’s house looking out over her rolling, careful garden surrounded by other, aspiring poets. I had moved only recently from Fairfield county and I remember thinking Guilford was heaven and, Imagine, so few miles from our last abode!!! And now, in 2020, I am still part of the heavenly chorus (so to speak) of our amazing group of poets where I am privileged to hear and offer poetry “in the works” and to be part of the workshop process.
What inspires your writing today?
Both misery and joy continue to move me. I think that being nothing more than fully awake gets me to poetry which, it seems, is always hovering close by. Of course, being awake takes some work. I’m a practicing Buddhist and find its call to meditation especially helpful in living fully…whether perfectly or, more likely, not!
Describe your poem-writing process.
My process is organic, I guess. Not seamlessly organic. Oh, no, it’s more like a mess…Just keeping awake to the mess. Noting it. Examining it. Getting a pen in my hand…or my lap top. My phone. And there’s a poem…or maybe not. I have also found workshops extremely helpful over the years…with Edwina Trentham, Don Barkin, Dick Allen, for example…to push me further than I ever thought I could go…and into areas I never dreamed would be/could be open to me.
Where do you like to write? With what?
Anywhere. Anytime. A keyboard is best for me. When I first heard about computers, I imagined poems would be waiting just on the other side of the screen. Bingo! Like that…Well, you know…
Who are you favorite poets and authors?
I am still in love with T.S. Eliot. Dostoyevsky. Melville. Kafka. (The dark outlook I found as a kid is still my go-to outlook.) My fellow poets in Guilford Poets Guild, CT River Poets are my constant source of inspiration and awe. Even levity!!
What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. Lighthead by Terrance Hayes.
Any last words?
Yes. Be sure to write. Don’t be shy or let modesty dictate your behavior. Be sure to share what you write. The connection between writer and reader is where all the magic and the fun and the wisdom and the perfect confusion resides…
Patricia Horn O’Brien is a graduate of Columbia School of Social Work and has worked and volunteered as a social worker throughout her adult life. She’s a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and co-founded CT River Poets. She initiated the ongoing program, Paintings and Poetry, at Florence Griswold Museum. Her recent book, a memoir, The Laughing Rabbit: A Mother, A Son, and the Ties that Bind, chronicling the surrender of her son for adoption in 1962, her search for him, and their reunion in 1982, is available on Amazon or from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pat is the author of When Less Than Perfect is Enough and Poet Laureate of Old Saybrook.