Today, meet Madelyn Camrud. She is a poet. She graciously answered some questions for the RedRiver Valley Writing Project and in turn gave us some questions to answer as well.
She highlights the idea that those who craft with words do not journey alone. Although the image of a writer isolated with a writing instrument is oft engrained in brains, writing is a shared journey filled with other people’s words, whether in classes, writing groups, face-to-face conversations, or shared words on a page.
Why do you write?
When in graduate school at UND, Professor Sheridan said one reason we write is to discover. That thought and W.C. William’s lines about poems: men die for lack of what is found there, sent me along the path to discovery and becoming a poet. I learned to look for whatever the poem will give me. Sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes I never find it. However, delight comes in words and sounds along the way: in how words look on a page, how a line breaks, and how meaning changes in the way words come together. One good line in a poem (usually near or at the end) is the discovery that gives me joy. Finally, the most important discoveries are the truths I might have disguised or never found in myself were it not for the poem.
Who encouraged you to be a poet?
Many people encouraged me and I thank them: my mother; a therapist; poetry teachers in classes and workshops: Robert King, Sharon Dubiago, Nancy Willard, Thom Tammaro, Mark Vinz to name a few. Main among them was Jay Meek. In his The Art of Writing class, I wrote and wrote to try and figure out what a poem really is. He encouraged me to continue my studies to earn a master’s degree with a creative thesis. Two years later, I was encouraged that New Rivers Press published my first collection of poems This House is Filled with Cracks. After graduation, I was encouraged by a Writers Group of five or six women. A loyal friend from the group, Barbara Crow, has been my single most encouraging poet friend ever since. Later still, Susan Meyers read and helped shape my second full-collection, Oddly Beautiful, which was terrifically helpful.
Who do you read to inspire you?
Poems by Sharon Olds I admire for the flow of her words moving down the page. I believe she says what she wants to say. There is no holding back. The Living and The Dead, her first book, is my favorite. Christian Wiman survived a terminal disease and wrote Every Riven Thing, a powerfully spiritual book of poems. I opened the book and couldn’t help but read all the poems, straight through, aloud. His book of prose, Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet is a wonderful resource for all poets. Susan Meyers’ excellent crafting of poems in My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass made me want to write as did Carol Muskie-Dukes when I heard her read from Twin Cities at the UND Writer’s Conference. I read and reread Louise Gluck’s poems in Ararat. Today, The Genome Rhapsodies Anna Meek, Jay’s daughter, arrived and I am terribly excited to read it!
What is my advice if you want to be a poet?
Poets learn to write poems by reading good poems and writing, writing, writing. Robert Bly suggested budding poets go into a cabin in the woods for a winter, no footprints in or out. That might be a good start but poetry for me is not that simple. It’s a long process. Currently, I’m mostly revising, sifting through stacks of hard copy and computer files for a new collection, On the Way to Moon Island. Having found lines in stacks from 1992 that became the title poem for Oddly Beautiful, my second collection, I believe in hard copy. I also believe in hand-written first drafts. I’m old fashioned.
Finally, I want to ask some questions. Doesn’t being a poet have as much to do with how you view the world as with it does with writing poetry? Isn’t it possible you’ve always been a poet though you might not have written poems? Do you think you’re too busy to write poems? Isn’t poetry a place to go early mornings, at bedtime, and on Sundays? Will there ever be enough time to live the introspective life you crave? Meanwhile, isn’t it enough to look in and out the windows of your life, to look forward and backward in your mind? Symphonic music in the background, birds, trees, and flowers in season, aren’t those lovely human faces and hearts, family and a few close friends, all you need to write poems?
Thank you Madelyn for sharing your poetry world, journey, and especially your questions.