Ruth Sabath Rosenthal–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I work at home, at my desk, on my laptop computer with just me, my thoughts, the computer screen, my trusty orbit mouse and the magic that flows from my fingers, to the keyboard, to the screen and, hopefully—eventually, into print in some fine poetry journal online, or hard copy, or in a poetry anthology, invariably in print.

What is your routine for writing?

I like to start writing early in the day and often I just barely stop for a bite to eat or a bathroom break. That’s on a day when I’ve no shortage of inspiration and/or my muse, whatever or whoever that may be at any given time, prods me on and on till the poem finishes and I’m mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. That doesn’t happen all that much now-a-days, but it did for the first decade of my writing career.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I started writing in 2000 and had my first poem published in 2006 with the very prestigious Connecticut Review and within that year I was also nominated for a PushCart prize by Ibbetson Street Press for my poem “on yet another birthday.” I wrote both poems quickly, as they were, unbeknown to me at the time, already in my head just waiting to be get out—an exciting and mystical experience for sure.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

My ideal audience is anyone who loves poetry—a non-writer—a poet themselves—an aspiring writer—male or female, young or old. Anyone who appreciates what I call “reader-friendly” poetry—plain spoken English conveying the complexities of the nature of things: human; animal; politics; being loved; not being loved; wanting love; wanting recognition; wanting retribution; that which is wanting; believing; leaving, disappointing; the nature of happiness; longing; waiting; explaining…

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

Personal experience, primarily my own, directs and defines a great deal of my poetry, although I sometimes write poems in the 3rd person. Or, as if I’m not me, but rather, someone else. Reading great works of poetry pf both poets of generations ago and contemporary poets and today’s poets, inspires me to write. Especially when I read them out loud to myself. I find I can’t truly appreciate what’s in front of my eyes until I hear the words, see and hear them as they flow off the page through my voice into my ears and psyche and fading into the air. Sometimes I have to stop reading because I’m suddenly filled with such need to write. When that happens I feel it’s magic. A magic where I feel the words I type, which then appear on the computer screen, are coming from a place or a person channeling me who is not in the realm I exist in. When that phenomenon occurs, more often than not, the poem gets finished quickly and goes on to meets great publishing success. The experience is awesome but, unfortunately, doesn’t happen all that often. If I find I’m blocked, I turn to my older poems and heavily edit them—usually to fit a “call for submissions” where a theme has been assigned as the criteria for the poem to be submitted. And of course, reading already established poets work and reading that aloud (I know I keep saying this, but I find it so very helpful ). There will come a time in that reading process that the urge to write pushes through and the reading is put away, and the insistent computer or pen and paper break through the rough patch of writer’ block and I’m back on track again.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, niece, cousin and someone who loves watching “Reality” TV—the absurdities lift me out of any doldrums and the overly dramatic behavior on the big screen takes me to a place so alien that I forget my reality enough to be recharged for facing the oncoming day. I also destress by watching some of the BBC and British TV programs and the Series on the PBS channels (13 and 21: the various mystery series; the Downton Abby like series; the period pieces – Jane Austen’s some of my favorites. And, while watching these British shows I often use the “closed captions,” even though the spoken language is English, because many of the words, spoken with heavy British accents, elude me unless I’m hearing them and simultaneously reading them on the screen.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part of the creative process. Umm. I could say the writing itself and the pride when the poem is finished, that pride furthered when the poem is published. But there’s an even greater creative process that comes later on—even years later—and that’s taking a look at any one of my older poems, written even decades ago, and taking on the task of adapting the poem to fit a specific theme via a publication’s “call for submissions.” Because the themes provided are universal in subject matter, and because my poems are also universal in subject matter, I find it thrilling to edit a existing poem of mine till I believe it nicely fits the criteria put forth. The “magic” that I spoke of comes into play here, as the re-write to meet the theme requisite, always greatly improves the poem; it evolves into being better, more meaningful work. The process in which this happens brings excitement and reward. Very exciting and rewarding when the revised poem is accepted for publication.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read lots of great poetry – diverse forms of it – formal – those with little or no punctuation like Kay Ryan’s. Try writing only syllabic poetry with end-line rhymes. That’s what I did for the first couple of years. It was so good for me in creating a personal rhythm – especially if the syllabic lines were heavy in iambic pentameter. I got good at crating my own forms of syllabic poetry. I’d do one long line, one short line, one long line, stanza after stanza. Each end of the line, a rhyming couplet or every other line that. I got quite good at rhyming and structure. rhythm and cadence. Then I started moving the rhymes into the body of the poem instead of at the end of lines. And I loosened up on the syllabics and added alliteration into the mix, but always, using everyday language, albeit sometimes a bit formal. I experimented with poems without any punctuation – others, heavily punctuated, and others – a balance of punctuation. Specific line breaks to make the poem more interesting and quirky or more poignant. Specific line breaks to emphasize a mood or break in a mood or to create movement by directing where the reader’s eye has to go to find what is after the line break. Stanza breaks can also serve the same function, maybe even more profoundly because of the extra blank space between one stanza and the next. So, in conclusion – my advice to aspiring writers is read read read and read out loud. Hear the words as they leave the page and hang mid air, or float, or crash, or demand attention, or as they taper off into silence.

Check out Ruth’s work in Volume 3, Issue 2

 

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