Laurie Kolp: Poet Interview

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I would ask readers to welcome Laurie Kolp, but most of you already know her as a long-time part of the Poetic Asides community. She's placed in a few of the WD Poetic Form Challenges, and some of you may know her debut poetry collection Upon the Blue Couch was published earlier this year by Winter Goose Publishing.

Laurie Kolp

Laurie Kolp

Laurie is an award-winning poet with numerous publications, some of which include Poets & Artists, iARTistas, and MiPOesias (GOSS183 Publishing Group), Writer’s Digest, Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet, Deep Water Literary Journal, cho, Miller’s Pond, The Fib Review; forthcoming in Pirene’s Fountain, Concho River Review and Blue Fifth Review. She serves as vice-president of Texas Gulf Coast Writers, and lives in Southeast Texas with her husband, three kids and two dogs. To learn more, please visit her website http://lauriekolp.com.

Here is one of my favorite poems from Upon the Blue Couch:

When I Was a Worm, by Laurie Kolp

I dug a hole to China
in search of
William Shakespeare,

my self-worth
a shot of Tequila
in a never-ending well,

and I found myself
in the bottom of the pit,
swinging my legs
from the last
blade of grass,

rotting with each
passing breath.

*****

What are you currently up to?

This has been a different kind of summer for my three kids and me. We’re used to hanging out with my mom… going to movies and out to lunch, or just visiting. You know she passed away in March after a very brief but intense illness. I’ve scaled back on some of my online poem sharing so that I can help them adjust (and vice versa). Plus, my dad finally said it was okay to start going through 30 years and four bedrooms full of Mom’s stuff, so my sister and I have slowly but surely been doing that.

At the beginning of the summer, I chaperoned my middle child’s Future Problem Solving (FPS) group to internationals in Iowa. We met people from many different countries at Iowa State University… my son’s group of four middle-schoolers who placed 2nd in state, an individual who placed 1st, an alternate, and a high school senior. The teacher and I were the only “official” adults. Everyone enjoyed it immensely.

Then I turned around and it was time to travel to North Carolina, after which I attended the Texas Poetry Society’s summer conference. Now I’m preparing for three birthdays this month and back to school. Whew.

I believe I was at your first reading, but you've been busy recently—even getting out to Hickory, North Carolina. Do you have any reading advice for other poets who are new to it? Or do you have something you try to focus on when you’re reading?

Yes, the first time I ever read one of my poems to an audience was the beginning of October, 2011 when I drove 75 miles to hear you read in Webster, TX. I had no plans of reading anything… I just wanted to meet you in person. After all, Poetic Asides was where I first felt comfortable sharing my poems on the Internet and you’ve always been such an inspiration. An open mic followed your reading, and you encouraged me to sign up. Thank you so much for that, Robert!

Fortunately, I just happened to have a few poems in my bag. I read I Am the Sea, which had recently won third place for your sonnet form challenge. I felt all trembly and nervous inside, but when the audience liked it, I stepped back in line to read a second poem.

Poetry Hickory was amazing. Let me tell you how it happened. I’ve met some dear friends on Poetic Asides, 12 of whom I participated with for years in a daily sharing/critique online poetry group; Nancy Posey is one of them. When Upon the Blue Couch was released, Nancy contacted me with a wild idea… wouldn’t it be neat if I came to read at Poetry Hickory and stayed with her? Much to my surprise, Scott Owens then invited me and the dream became a reality. Jane Shlensky drove down for the event, too. What a magical evening I’ll never, ever forget.

My advice to poets new to reading their work consists of a few small things that I think make a big difference. Plan ahead and practice reading the poems out loud. Pique the audience’s interest. Think about what you want to share about each poem before you read it… something as simple as, “This poem was inspired by the three men with plumber’s butts I saw sitting side by side on the beach while looking down from Pleasure Pier.”

When I’m reading, I find a few people in the audience who seem half-way interested, perhaps a few smiling real big like Nancy and Jane. Then I make eye contact with those people. There are always a few expressionless listeners who, if I don’t look away, will start my mind wondering if I’m really that horrible. So I try to delve into my words and focus on the positive.

*****

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*****

Your collection Upon the Blue Couch has been a fun read—at times silly, romantic, serious, and beautiful. How did you go about collecting and organizing these poems?

Thank you, Robert! The poems in this collection were amassed through many years of writing about my past. At one point, I even wrote my memoir in the third person, and then did nothing with it except to share it with a few close friends. I still felt compelled to write about some of the things I’d been through, either personally or second-hand, and my poems always seemed to come from that desire. I wanted to offer my experience, strength and hope to others. Since the theme is a comfortable blue couch that has been the common thread of a woman’s journey through adulthood, I decided to arrange the poems chronologically.

Upon the Blue Couch, by Laurie Kolp.

Upon the Blue Couch, by Laurie Kolp.

What's been the biggest surprise for you in the process of getting your collection published?

Well, the first hurrah came with the acceptance from my publisher, Winter Goose Publishing; but walking through the creative process, which I call a tug-of-war… the endless hours of writing more poems and then throwing them out, editing and revising, arranging and rearranging, self-discovery and self-doubt… and watching all my hard work come to fruition after more than a year of waiting has been amazing.

In retrospect, the delay in publication was a gift because in the meantime, my mother died, and I was able to add a section in the back which really completed the book.

Receiving my copy in the mail and holding it in my hand, caressing the cover and reading the poems as if I’d never seen them before… that was the greatest feeling in the world.

As you know, I like to share poetic forms on the Poetic Asides blog. Do you have a favorite form?

I love the poetry form challenges, Robert. I just wish I had time to participate in each one. They’re a wonderful opportunity to stretch out of my comfort zone and write my way into the poem’s certain parameters and specifications. I feel like following the formula is the closest I’ll ever get to wanting to work a math problem. It’s a challenge I welcome!

Of course, I really like the forms where I placed: tritina (1st ), nonet ( 2nd ), sonnet (3rd), kyrielle ( 4th place), triversen (top 10); but I like others, such as the fib, haibun, sestina (I know, I know), palindrome, and ghazal. Found poetry/erasure is one of my very favorites, though.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in The Found Poetry Review’s Pulitzer Remix April of 2013, where I wrote 30 found poems from John Updike’s Rabbit At Rest. Whew. What a month that was, as I also participated in your PAD. I was so happy when you announced your found poems challenge for your own poetry book, Solving the World’s Problems.

By the way, I really appreciate your putting together the list of poetic forms all in one place… what a wonderful resource!

What do you enjoy more—writing or revising poems?

That’s a toughie. I really like the urgency that accompanies the writing of a draft. I need to get this out, I need to write these words, I need to make this point… whatever the need may be at the time. But the revising is where I gain the most pleasure. I love watching my poems grow from various stages like a child maturing into an adult. The process of stepping away from the poem for a few weeks and then going back, feeling less emotionally attached to it and willing to let some of it go… isn’t that a lot like parenting?

Just as we as humans change throughout life, my poems are always forking off into different directions. I never know how they will end up. My muse can be very bodacious, you know.

One poet no one knows but should—who is it?

Gretchen Johnson, an English Instructor at my hometown college, Lamar University. I recently finished her poetry collection, A Trip Through Downer, Minnesota. I love her work.

Who (or what) are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading The Sea-Wolf, by Jack London. My sister, who teaches high school English, dropped off some classics for us to read over the summer. It’s been a joy. I also reread To Kill A Mockingbird. As far as poetry goes, After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery, edited by Tom Lombardo, has most recently captivated my heart (I have a soft spot for all things recovery).

If you could only share one piece of advice with fellow poets, what would it be?

Wear a suit of armor and persevere. Never, ever give up.

******

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

******

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