Interview: Vicki Chavis

I was delighted to see that Vicki Chavis was not only a freelance writer but a successful poet as well. You will be amazed at the fabulous prize she won for one of her poems! Vicki has some wonderful insight for writers. Enjoy this interview.

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First of all, I love that you’re a poet as well as a freelance writer. The world needs more poetry! How often do you write poetry?

I’m glad to hear you think we need more poetry in the world…I happen to agree! I write a little poetry every day whether it’s a Haiku or a few lines of imagery that I can use later. Very rarely do I write an entire poem at once so it’s a constant crafting and sculpting of ideas in order to write outside the box of everyday writing.

I find that poets use a different process for writing poetry (handwritten versus computer) than they do for other forms of writing. Is this true for you as well?

Well, I look out the window a lot and try to have a playful attitude with words to find a new way of seeing or thinking.

Which poets were you first drawn to?

The first real poet I was drawn to was a professor in college, David L. Posner, a famous American poet. His poetry contains a reckless abandonment combined with a deep underlying structure that I respect and adore. I still strive to write poetry that he would approve of, although sadly, he is no longer with us. One of the first poems of his that I fell in love with taught me how to look at life with an eye for precise and intricate details as shown in his poem, “The Sandpipers.” In the last stanza his eye is like a sunbeam, pointed effortlessly toward the crux of the Sandpipers’ existence; minute yet somehow pertinent and endearing.

“…They never get so much as the ribbon of their toes wet.

When I observe in the fire of light

their curved Venetian feathers sparkle,

I imagine the entire ocean bearing down,

great hulks of waves splintered from the sky,

trying, from the depths of the sea,

to follow their tiny knees.”

That really knocked me out the first time I read it…who thinks about the Sandpipers’ tiny knees?

Do you remember writing your first poem? How old were you? What was it about?

Great question! Yes, I remember it, but it was all in my head. I was well-known in my family as Tilly the Typist, a little girl who loved to type gobbledygook on an entire page. I would take my “writing” to my dad who would put me on his lap and “read” my poem or short story. He would make me laugh so hard with the “words” he found on the page. He’d make up a wild story or an epic poem as he went along. It was the beginning of my love affair with the written word.

How would you respond to people who say they don’t like poetry?

I’d say it is definitely an acquired taste; some do, some don’t.

Do you feel that growing up in different parts of the world has influenced your writing?

Absolutely! Traveling and living around the world gave me a third eye in a way. I write about things that rise up from memories that are still bubbling over. In fact, my first award-winning poem was written 30 years after leaving India. It was a poem that was a love letter to India and won a grand prize of $20,000.00. My husband still shakes his head over that one!

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

I’m working on two collections of poetry. One is complete and ready for the road while the other is still unfinished. The second one is a work that I’ve written with my daughter while she lived in Japan for a 7 month period. It is a Mother-Daughter Haiku Diary. I’m really inspired by writing alongside my daughter.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

I love so many books for so many reasons but historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. Anita Diamant wrote The Red Tent based on a single fact from the Bible. She took that one thought and turned it into an intense work of beauty, filled with women I wanted to know in real life. It’s an amazing piece of writing that honors the thread that binds all women together no matter how many centuries separate us.

Favorite authors?

Janet Fitch (White Oleander) really inspired me when I read that she fought to be a better writer for 20 years because agents repeatedly told her that her writing was just average. After all those years when she could have given up, she didn’t! She worked harder to become a writer with spectacular imagery and stimulating vocabulary. My copy of White Oleander contains so much underlining that my daughter told me after reading it, “Mom, reading White Oleander with your highlighting was like taking a class in creative writing.”

Book you’re currently reading?

Right now I’m reading The Second Degree Difference (how changing one small attitude or thought can change an entire relationship, for example), Grace and Power (the private world of the Kennedy White House), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, and assorted poems by the remarkable Kate Braverman.

Where can we learn more about you?

www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/freeverse101

www.webook.com/project/Riding-the-Undertow-Poetry-Vote

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