There was a time when Lauree Ashcom felt she had to hide her love for poetry.
“I always wrote and read poetry secretly,” she says. “When I was in school, teachers seemed to teach that there were only certain types of poetry, that it mainly rhymed, that the only great poets were dead.”
And so Lauree would perhaps sometimes send a poem to a family member or friend, but mostly she kept what she describes as her “real heart words” in journals and on note cards tucked under her bed or in hidden in her closet.
“About ten years ago I began to feel more free and more rebellious,” she says. “Maybe it had something to do with suddenly having an empty nest. I created an alter ego under a pen name and began writing and posting in poetry groups on Facebook and other sites. Not all of these were sites that a proper southern woman should be visiting, but even that helped me break the bonds of the rules that made me live in fear.”
Lauree started entering and becoming a finalist in writing contests. This helped her to eventually land a book deal. “I would have been happy to just have a chapbook printed, but I got a contract for a full length book,” she says.
I’m excited to announce that Lauree Ashcom is the Member of the Month for April, which is also National Poetry Month.
I recently had a chat with Lauree about her writing process and journey.
Lauree Ashcom explains why poetry matters.
Where do you typically find inspiration for your poetry?
The world is full of inspiration. I can hear a phrase in the middle of a conversation that will send me off in an emotional tailspin. If I am involved in that conversation I try to be unobtrusive in my note taking. I am a also an unrepentant eavesdropper. I keep note cards with me all the time and Siri has become a great tool when I am driving.
Sometimes I see something in nature or some man-made absurdity that I need to describe and the words come.
Who are some of your favorite female poets?
There is a lot of the language that some authors of fiction and non-fiction use that is very poetic. I see poetry everywhere. There are some poets that I read and reread and weep over.
Sylvia Plath was creative in so many other ways beyond her verse and I love that. Maya Angelou was beautifully honest about her thoughts and continually encouraged her audience to live truthfully and with grace.
Naomi Shihab Nye is a favorite because even though she deals with cultural outsider-ness she reflects the feelings that I have of being an outsider in my own space. Sharon Olds speaks often about being a woman, not necessarily as a feminist but just about the conversational and traditional kinds of experiences.
There are others but these come to mind most readily.
What other types of writing do you do?
Professionally, I have written informational work as the webmaster for a large organization. I have written informational and educational material for a state agency. In many ways I like a spare kind of writing and this worked well when I had to produce all-the-info-on-one-page kinds of material. Also, I am a research addict and this is an asset in the production of factual material. I don’t have a regular job right now, so all I can speak about is my experience.
I do have some short stories published in collections and continue to write short fiction. These are mainly erotic, although I hope that they are tastefully done.
What advice would you give someone who enjoys writing poetry but is afraid to share her work because she’s not sure if it’s good enough?
Read poetry. Write every day. Share your work wherever you can. Take a class if you find one just for the opportunity to be with other poets. Don’t take the negative comments other people make too seriously. If you are being truthful in what you are writing YOU will know it. People will respond to the emotion. If they are only responding to the style you use or the way you punctuate, they don’t matter.
You will find people whose opinions you trust. Hold on to them like crazy.
If you share online you need to understand that it will sometimes be appropriated, stolen, because it stirred someone’s heart. People don’t really get that stuff on the web still belongs to someone. Generally a note to that person will get it either taken down or at least properly credited.
What do you enjoy most about being a member of See Jane Write?
The women in this group inspire me all the time. I love to hear what they are doing and feeling. I learn new things all the time from the newsletter or from events or from the blogs people post in the Facebook group.
I am probably the oldest member and I love watching young women in Alabama rising above what has been in the past and just being who they ARE. Some find it more difficult than others. See Jane Write is a safe place for a woman who is just starting to be told she has a meaningful voice and has something of value to offer. See what a life-changer you have become, Javacia!
Thank you, Lauree!
You can find Lauree’s poetry collection Spilled Heart on Amazon.
Send your nominations for See Jane Write Member of the Month to email@example.com.