Web Wednesdays are my favorite days of the month, because we can highlight the wonderful poets who grace our “garden.” This week we feature a poet who writes mostly of love, faith, home, and all-things-lovely: Janet Martin. We discovered her talent not long ago at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides. I connected with her on a personal level right away.
Welcome, Janet! Let’s begin with a poem you feel best represents your writing style, and the essence of who you are.
JANET: First off, Marie, I want to thank-you for the interest you show to me and all the poets here, and for your kind and encouraging words.
When I told my daughter as she stood looking over my shoulder, that I am trying to find a poem that represents ‘me,’ she threw her head back and laughed! She understood that there are almost two-thousand pieces of me on my blog alone. My favorite topics to write about are faith, family and nature. Oh, I do so love to ‘paint’ the world in words, since putting a brush in my hand leads to … nothing intelligible. I also insist that not all my poems are autobiographical, but, in the words of Walt Whitman, “There is no trick or cunning, no art or recipe, by which you can have in your writing what you do not possess in yourself.” I therefore concede that each poem does possess a tiny thread of me.
MARIE ELENA: “The Call of Life” is a lovely poem Janet finally chose to share as an example of her style and thought process. It is followed by one of my own favorites, “My Apology to My Writer’s Group.”
The Call of Life
Oceans of vain doubting
Swallowed in Belief
Deep unspoken sorrow
Hope for each tomorrow
As today disappears
Tear within the eye now
Aching in the chest
Letting our dreams die now
Because God knows best
Brave blue-collar heroes
Unnamed and unsung
Longing, as it sears through
Thirsting on our tongue
Rising and the falling
Ebbing and the flow
We answer the calling
Of living’s joy and woe
Life’s November weeping
Into the thin dark
Love and sorrow sleeping
In the self-same spark
Whispers of desire
Feathering the sod
Lifting our hope higher
And homeward to God
© Janet Martin
MY APOLOGY TO MY WRITER’S GROUP
I have discovered for the ump-teenth time
There is really no home for the poet of rhyme
And while I admit I have much to learn
There is a barred pasture for which I yearn
Where Tennyson, Long-fellow and Blake recline
Among all the great masters of rhythm and rhyme
My admiration runs deep for the artist of prose
The skill of their quill; the metaphorical rose
I strive to be brave enough to venture among
The haiku, cinquain, nonet, tanka song
But when I have wandered their courtyards sublime
I return once again to the pastures of rhyme
Beauty is in the eye of beholder, its true
I have understood as I beheld the senyru
And marveled at the tools of simplicity
Creating pure, breath-taking imagery
I bow my head, the truth now I know it
Dare I to call myself a poet?
Yet happily I gather words in my thought
Dither about for the elusive jot
I care not so much about status or title
The lure of words cannot keep my thought idle
Am I a poet or merely a shadow
Drifting in bliss through a wide open meadow?
So while some may gag at rhyme’s stringent plot
I have not learned how to un-rhyme my thought
Over and over I am lured by its dance
Yet drawn simultaneously by free-verse romance
So quietly I sit at the back of the room
Happy to observe poet’s in full bloom
© Janet Martin
MARIE ELENA: Oh boy, can I relate to “Apology!” It reminds me of something you have said of yourself: “I really am just someone who likes to play with words.” I wonder if you have any clue how often my response to your poetry is, “I wish I’d written that.” I relate to your feelings, beliefs, words, style, faith … the whole package.
It is probably safe to say that you believe the folks who post responses to Walt’s Poetic Bloomings prompts are “poets.” Do you consider yourself a poet?
JANET: I’m smiling as I consider this question because, as stated in the poem above I often wonder, ‘am I a poet?’ Or simply someone who likes to rhyme? When my kids call me a poet, I reply that if I am a poet it would be of the homespun variety. I am so blown away by the beauty that graces the garden here, and am honored to plant a few humble blooms here and there. On my blog Another Porch, I have a number of poems of which I contemplate who or what makes a poet. In technical terms I am not a poet. Until last August when someone questioned the reason for a certain meter in a poem, I have to confess I did not even know what he was referring to. I simply counted syllables.
After a visit to my trusty pal, Mr. Google, I was introduced to iambic, pentameter, and many other meter siblings. All kidding aside, this kind reader took a great interest in my writing, and by his repetitive encouragement to stretch and try some new forms and topics, I took a trembling step into the world of prompts. I cannot thank him (Mike Patrick from The Poet’s Quill) enough for introducing to me a whole new classroom of friends and challenges. This is also the step which brought to me the grand realization that perhaps I am not a poet … yet. Marie, every new form introduced here is a first for me. It really was/is terrifying for me to blog, and ten times more to venture beyond the shelter of it into other poetry communities. Poetic Asides was the first poetry pool I dipped my toes into, and oh, I am so thankful I took the plunge! Marie, we may never have met if I had not! Thank you again to Mike P. who, although very busy with sudden changes in his own life, stopped by to encourage me to try it! So, trying to still the heart-pounding ‘What if there is no one who really ‘gets my passion’? – this ‘thing’ that has burned in me for as long as I can remember and suddenly wants to fly? I posted … and met you and other kindred spirits. Paper is a patient ear in a world where no one really has time to listen anymore. My blogs/graffiti walls are there as a way to share to any who care to read. This quote has become a personal favorite:
“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin
MARIE ELENA: “Paper is a patient ear in a world where no one really has time to listen anymore.” What a wonderful, quotable quote! I may have to keep that in mind for the next time we do a “Hey! That’s My Line!” prompt.
Well, Janet, I’m convinced we owe Mike Patrick a handshake and our thanks for drawing you out of the shadows.
When did you first feel the pull of writing poetry? How long have you been writing on a regular basis?
JANET: I felt the pull when I was eight. I was enthralled with rhyme since the day I discovered it, and hunted for rhyming books as a small child. My mother loves poetry and books. Her old readers contain some of the very early favorite poems of mine. The Brook by Tennyson, The Wreck of the Hesperus by Longfellow, The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson … I could go on and on. In January, on my Another Porch blog I posted the first poem I recall writing and keeping. The post is entitled In the Beginning and it includes a picture of the Precious Scribbler, purchased at our local general store for twenty-nine cents. This scribbler would hold the pieces of a young girl’s heart for approximately three years and then for the next thirty-something years I filled binders and journals with poetry. I suppose I began writing on a regular basis from the age of eight. I was the third in a family of ten children. Somehow, in my mind, knowing I was ‘the child who wrote poetry’ gave me a personal identity.
Also, I fell in love with the poetry of Edgar A. Guest. He will forever be the poet that greatly stirred and influenced my writing style. I am in the process of collecting every volume of his poetry. His blend of family, faith, humor and home, love of God, country and fellow-man gained my deepest respect.
MARIE ELENA: In conversation, you mentioned that you “had no formal education beyond Grade Eight.” You write with such beauty, skill, and elegance, one would never guess. Do you mind if I ask how this came about?
JANET: No, I do not have any formal education beyond Grade Eight. The Mennonite culture I grew up in did not pursue, rather, they discouraged ‘higher education.’ A child’s school years began in Kindergarten and ended in Grade Eight. The school I attended was a small parochial school in our community, and it is still being used today. They now include Grades Nine and Ten, but there are many students whose families choose to end their education at the end of Grade eight. When I was a girl, the school had two rooms: Grades One to Four in the ‘Junior’ room, and grades Five to Eight in the ‘Senior’ room. We employed two teachers, one for each room. They taught all subjects to all four grades. One of those teachers also held the title of principal. This sounds like a lot, but the grades were small, ranging from four to perhaps seven or eight students in one grade.
After Grade Eight, students helped on family or neighboring farms, as did I. Boys were trained in farming or another trade, and girls were trained in house-keeping and gardening and so forth. It never even crossed my mind at that point that I may wish for more education someday … At seventeen years of age I began working in an in-store bakery. I was employed there for eight years, until Emily, our eldest daughter was born. I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost twenty years.
MARIE ELENA: Have you ever regretted your decision, or thought about furthering your education?
JANET: Since the decision had not been mine to make, but was simply a way of life back then, I cannot say I regret the decision. Having said that, yes, I have thought about furthering my education, but that is all it is: a thought. The idea is extremely daunting as I look at my 11-year-old daughter’s workbooks and realize how much has changed since I went to school. I really would not know where to begin! I am on the brink of a stage where I wonder what life holds. Education would definitely be a bonus when considering options of employment outside of the home.
Also, I am extremely thankful for the computer and high-speed internet! We got our computer five years ago and high-speed internet approximately a year ago. ‘Windows’ has certainly broadened my horizons! I realize there are many correspondent courses available and I might look into something like that for a start. Sometimes I fear I may have forgotten the art of learning and retaining what I learn.
For now, I am doing child-care out of my home. It allows me to be at home, and is a small supplement to the family budget.
MARIE ELENA: There is much to be said about being a student of life, and a stay-at-home mom. It seems you make the most of both.
Here is another poem I can particularly relate to, and wish I had written:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
When midnight is lonesome and heavy and deep
When need in your bosom is stronger than sleep
When longing is clenching the hope from your soul
And life is a journey without a clear goal
You are not alone
When empty arms yearn for someone to embrace
When love’s loss has stolen the thrill from life’s race
When cold lonely hours bleed away, undefined
And night’s endless hollow expands in your mind
You are not alone
When tears of desire and helpless despair
Weep in every heart-beat and breathe on the air
When only the darkness responds to your plea
And nothing but silence keeps you company
You are not alone
Someone is waiting to be a true Friend
Arms full of mercy and grace without end
God so loved the world that He sent His dear Son
He is a true, faithful Friend to each one
You are not alone
What can we do His fellowship to receive?
All we can do is simply believe
His grace sufficient is love’s offering
Tender, omniscient are the words of a King
“You are not alone”
© Janet Martin
MARIE ELENA: You are one whose faith shines brilliantly, as in this poem. Please tell us about this important part of who you are, and how it shapes your life and this poem.
JANET: Marie, may I begin my answer with a few questions? Do you ever feel lonely in spite of loving arms around you? Do you ever feel alone in a crowd? Do you ever long for something, but you are not sure what? I do. This partially inspired the above poem.
Also, I noticed on my blog that the words lonely, longing, and alone are searched approximately ten times for every other word searched. To me, it is a sad reflection of the world we live in … and I understand it. But I am so thankful that I am not alone. This assurance was taught to me as a child, and shaped my faith even then. When I was a girl approximately six years old, I went through a phase where I was certain our house was burning. The fear was sparked (pun intended) after a chimney-fire in our home and as my WILD imagination took shape, I was certain that I smelled smoke in every room. I think I drove my mother nearly mad. I don’t clearly remember how long it lasted, but my mother reminded me over and over that God is watching over us, and nothing happens in life outside of his care. Slowly my own faith began taking shape and, though I battled the ‘fire-demons’ for years, I learned through it to pray, and to place my trust in God. I came to Christ with a child’s faith. I remember kneeling and asking him into my heart. It influenced that first poem I wrote as well as many to follow. (I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins and that all who believe in him will have everlasting life. John 3:16, the first verse I memorized as a child.)
Eighteen years ago, we left the Mennonite culture. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and hard to explain to someone not raised in that type of setting where faith and tradition are completely intertwined. For approximately ten years I wrote very little poetry. Besides being in busy ‘mothering’ years, this change caused me to examine everything I believed in! Every relationship close to me was tested through this time. Again, it is difficult to explain it, the letting go of tradition and leaning solely on grace and in the process hurting intensely, those who have loved me the most (aka parents and siblings). By God’s grace daily go I, scars included. Family scars are surely the deepest and most painful. The above poem was written one night as I battled regret and longing and clung to our Living Hope. When earthly arms are not enough, when longing has no name, God’s love never fails … and tears well in my eyes even now as I realize the awesomeness of this. I cannot explain it but to say, “To one who has faith no explanation is necessary, to one without faith no explanation is possible.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas
MARIE ELENA: Thank you for sharing so freely, Janet. I’m thankful also for the sensitivity you exhibit, knowing that not everyone who graces our site is of the same Christian faith as you and I. Part of the joy of Poetic Bloomings is the freedom to express who we are in a manner that does not offend those who feel differently.
You describe yourself as “a lover of simple things, and the music of life.” These are a few of my favorite things: Go! Describe these for me.
JANET: This is my favorite question by far! Every single one of my kids would testify that I am a sky-lover! I am completely mesmerized by the sun going down, or rising with colors of crazy grace dissolving the darkness. I’m in love with the wind moaning wildly outside my window. I am a lover of nature, the sun-etched leaf trembling in the late-day hush, or the snow spreading the color of grace over a muddy world. I am in love with the music in the eager rush of children’s feet, the bedtime tuck-in routine, of a boy-becoming-man awkwardness, the ‘wisdom’ of teenagers. I love the music of seasons, the wonder of a moment. I have never traveled outside of my honeymoon, but I have learned to enjoy a thousand gifts every day and marvel at life’s simple things.
Here is a little prayer I penned one morning when I needed to look a little harder…
Lord, give me eyes to see your simple gifts within each day
Open up my heart and help me see You in this way
A thousand, thousand whispers from You brush earth’s weary sod
Open up my ears so I may hear You thus, oh God
I have no need for riches that will tarnish, fade and rust
But help me Lord to gather treasures of the heart, not dust
Lord, open up my eyes to see the wonder of Your love
Flowing in moments within reach from portals up above
Contentment is life’s greatest gain, when joined with godliness
Lord, teach me daily how to live within its quietness
© Janet Martin
MARIE ELENA: Your faith-based poetry truly speaks to my heart! Here is a poem that is NOT faith-based that I absolutely adore. This is yet another of yours that I just want to scream: WISH I’D WRITTEN THAT!
THE OTHER GUY
Today I was the other guy
I watched myself as I walked by,
Today I got a chance to see
What others saw as I watched me,
Today truth opened up my eyes
As I stood with the other guys
I received the words today,
That thoughtlessly I toss away,
As I stood with the other guys
And truth stared back into my eyes
Beneath the candor of my touch
I wasn’t sure I liked me much
I got my own advice today,
I could not turn and walk away,
As I stood with the other guys
And watched me through a stranger’s eyes
I blush a little now in shame
As I hear me speak my name
I used to wish that I could see
Perhaps, what others thought of me,
But now as I am standing here
I wish that I could disappear
Today I opened up my eyes
As I stood with the other guys
© Janet Martin
MARIE ELENA: First of all, if you haven’t tried to get this published, you really do need to find a home for it. Perhaps a children’s/teen magazine. Next, as with your “Apology” poem, does this speak to a personal experience?
JANET: Thank you Marie. It is nice to hear from others what might be ‘publish-worthy.’ I find it very difficult know what to submit anywhere for publication.
Yes, this poem was a painfully honest look in the mirror after being told ‘I wish you could hear yourself sometimes!’ This statement was like a gut-punch, but after tempers cooled I could not forget it. I began ‘hearing’ myself, and tried visualizing what it would be like to live beside me instead of inside me. It is a startling reality-check and very humbling and sobering. This thought helps me to keep in check (sometimes) those words I would not like to have spoken to me.
MARIE ELENA: Thank you for the honesty and refreshing transparency. We need more of that in our society, in my opinion.
You and your husband of nearly 24 years have four children. You are a stay-at-home mom in a society of “working” women. (As though what you do is not work! Hmmmph!) How did you and your husband come to this decision? Please tell us the pros and cons, and how you feel about it. And by the way, my own mother was a stay-at-home mom, and I appreciated it even when I was in high school.
JANET: My husband and I will celebrate our twenty-fourth anniversary on June the 3rd, Lord willing. We have four children. Emily is nineteen, Melissa is seventeen, Matthew is almost fourteen and Victoria just turned eleven on March the 9th.
I love being a stay-at-home mom! Yes, we live in a society where this is no longer the norm due to ever-increasing living costs. My husband is a transport-truck driver. He is generally gone from Monday to Friday or Saturday, therefore I have never considered working out of the home. With his job taking him away much of the time, we feel I need to be here in the home to give our children the security and stability of knowing there is someone at home. This has been rewarded with the most wonderful music of all … it is a one-syllable word that greets me every afternoon if I happen not to be in the kitchen when they come in after school … “mom?”
I’ll admit it takes creativity on the budget end of things, but it can be done. In the summer we have a huge garden and, because I grew up doing a lot of canning, it is something I still do.
My kids are wonderful and helpful. They make my life much easier because they are understanding and I think they actually like me ! Jim (my husband) keeps saying he will drive truck until he figures out what he really wants to do in life. He is in the twenty-sixth year of trying to figure it out. This is another reason I am so thankful to have poetry as an outlet. It is someone to talk to when no one is here.
MARIE ELENA: Yes, I think one thing we all have in common is the desire to crawl out through the internet wires!
Now, as I ask of all our featured guests, if there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you want it to be?
JANET: Marie, I can answer this question the best by sharing a poem where I adapted the style of Edgar A. Guest to share the heart of who I am.
I’druther you were painfully honest with me
And my feelings would sting for a while
Than to walk with you down a tree-lined street
As you lie to me through your smile
I’druther be a little homely
Than a cheap and painted fraud
Who wears a mask to fool people
Forgetting I can never fool God
I’druther be poor and happy
Learning to be content
Than rich with a pocket of fool’s gold
That brings no joy when it’s spent
I’druther have one friend who is honest
Than a hundred which seem to lack
The ability to be faithful
As they stab me in the back
I’druther have a house full of laughter
With furniture battered and scarred
Than live in a palace that’s silent
With every façade unmarred
I’druther have my arms full of children
Than trophies and accolades
And I like a ten-minute vacation
Beneath the willow’s shade
I’druther drive my sensible mini-van
With a happy family
Than be alone with a perfect tan
In a red Lamborghini
I’druther have a little trouble
Here on my acre of sod
Than live in a perfect bubble
Where I would never need God
© Janet Martin
Marie, this is the hardest question for me to answer, but all I can think of to say is that I love to love others for who they are and be loved for who I am … not who others think I ought to be. It is too hard to try and be someone other than yourself. I love to live fully in the moment I am in, for it is the only thing of any worth at all. And I LOVE each of my cyber-poet friends dearly. Thank you so much, each and every one of you, for what you are teaching me.
MARIE ELENA: Again, thank you for sharing yourself so honestly with us.
One last thing: “… knowing I was ‘the child who wrote poetry’ gave me a personal identity” made me smile. I suppose in a family of ten children, one needs to find their niche. This statement says much about you, and I believe therein lies your answer to, “am I a poet?”
http://itsjrm.blogspot.com/ are where I post Journal-type entries.
http://anotherporch.blogspot.com/ is my main blog
http://frontporchpoetry-janet.blogspot.com/ is inspirational poetry. This was my first blog, and with the encouragement of a few readers they persuaded me to stretch to other topics, so I moved to another porch.