Alana Sherman: Poet Interview

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2014 April PAD Challenge countdown: 9. I don't know about you, but I love learning about other poets, especially the poets who hang out at the Poetic Asides blog.

Alana Sherman

Alana Sherman

Alana Sherman, poet and teacher, lives in Woodbourne, NY, with her husband and dogs in an 1834 farmhouse, under constant renovation (sort of like her poems). She belongs to a group of poets who meet once a month to share their work. The Alchemy Poetry Workshop has been in existence since the 1940s and is the oldest extant poetry workshop in Sullivan County (maybe even in NY State!). Alana writes essays, poems and children’s books. In addition to her writing, she is a community developer, working to preserve The Old Stone House of Hasbrouck.

Here's her Top 25 poem:

Dying Sea Bird, by Alana Sherman

Legs splayed behind
feathers bedraggled
its beak in the sand

the only thing
keeping his head erect
Like others I stop

to assess the obvious

Two men discuss
if anything can be done
The tide is going out

the sea at its edges
lavender and aqua
A woman circles

shaking her head

down the beach a couple
getting married
a small girl running

her arms askew
as other birds scatter into the air
the rest of us are concerned

but powerless when I come back

the bird's head
is at an angle
only death can achieve

all that remains
is for the tide to do
what all of us are wishing for

and take the sandy lump away

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Where are you located?

I live in upstate New York on an old farm, it's pretty rural.

Who are your favorite poets?

My favorite poets are Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hass, and Stanley Plumly. These days I am re-reading Richard Wilbur and Gertrude Schnackenberg for their incredible skills at rhyming. I can't forget Robert Frost. If I could achieve his simplicity and ability to just move people with meaning as he does in one of my poems I'd be happy as a poet. I probably could list at least five more poets.

As a reader, what do you like in poetry?

When I read I look for the clear expression of ideas through beautiful language, beautiful images. I want a poem to make me say YES, to enhance my experience of the world and life and to connect me to the writer and what he or she was thinking and feeling. ( A part of me always wants to feel a little envious of the poem and to wish that I'd written it.) That's a tall order but really good poetry has always done that for me.

What did you hope to get out of the April PAD Challenge?

I keep a journal and I'm always writing down ideas. As a result I tend to have a lot of the stuff of poems. I use the April PAD to help me crystallize my work. It's a chance to make real poems out of all that rough material. My goal is to come out of the challenge with some poems worthy of being called poems.

What's next for you?

To take the poems I have and revise them into a collection that hangs together. That's why I look forward every year to the November Chapbook challenge. It forces me to re-think and revise.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer's Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World's Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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