Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Heidi Roemer: Poetry Interview

Heidi Roemer 
Click on Heidi's name to visit her website!

1. Congratulations on your first book! When can poetry lovers find it in bookstores? Give us the details!

Available in bookstores April 1, COME TO MY PARTY is a collection of 38 seasonal shape poems.  These exuberant poems literally dance across the page as they follow a child's activities through the seasons: jumping rope, flying kites, eating watermelon, toasting marshmallows, and shoveling snow, to mention just a few. The artwork by Hideko Takahashi supports the text exquisitely.

2.  How long have you been writing poetry? What is your favorite type?

As a rookie writer in 1991, I wrote all kinds of things—inspirationals, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. None of it was very good, but I kept “practicing.” Eventually, some of them sold.  As time went on, my poetry sales exceeded my other endeavors. That encouraged me to writer MORE poetry!
Reading and studying poetry written by the pros helped me hone my own writing skills.

My favorite types of poems are ones that make me smile.  I get a kick out of Douglas Florian’s wordplay and X. J. Kennedy’s humor. I enjoy some poems because they’re “eye-openers,” like “Paperclip” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. This poem helps me visualize the paperclip’s jaws as it clamps down on a pile of papers—a revelation!  Some poems are “ear-pleasers.” In “Camel,” William Jay Smith incorporates a lumbering rhythm that mimics the beast’s ungainly gait. Other poems are “tongue-ticklers.” James Kirkip’s playful poem, “Baby’s Drinking Song” begins, “Sip a little. Sup a little from your little cup a little…”

3. COME TO MY PARTY has such fun shape poems! Can you tell us how you constructed them?

I chalk it up in part to serendipity! Goofing around on my computer one day, I stumbled upon a button called WordArt. It allowed me to manipulate text. About that time, I happened to be reading DOODLE DANDIES by J. Patrick Lewis and STREET POEMS by Robert Froman. They contain both shape and concrete poems. I was inspired to give this poetry form a try. Certainly, I reasoned, shape poetry would be a good “hook,” since they’re somewhat rare. WordArt allowed me to write and submit a collection that looked tidy and professional.

Shape poetry is a blend of text and art. One tricky thing about creating shape poems is that the words must read left to right. The reader shouldn’t be confused as to what line comes next. Also, some subjects are more challenging than others. A shape poem comprised of an arched line representing a rainbow, for example, is easier to create than an accurate representation of a bicycle. Readers don’t want to have to continually spin the book around in order to follow the text. Most important, the poem—with or without the shape—has to have substance and zing! You can’t be sidetracked with the shape issue and write a second-rate poem.

By the way, did you know that there is a distinction between concrete poems and shape poems?  Shape poems are usually comprised of significant language, rhyme, and meter. The words are arranged in such a way that they mirror the subject of the poem. Concrete poems also are visual reflections of the poem’s subject, but use only limited or repetitive words.

4. Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas are everywhere. Reach out and grab one! When my muse is in high gear, I pick up on ideas easily. I see a For Sale sign, and I write a poem about saying goodbye to one’s home. I see a magnet, and write a mask poem about an obnoxious horseshoe magnet who brags about how “attractive” he is.

Other times, I have to give my muse a jump-start.  Feasting my eyes on picture books, reading stories and poems, absorbing fascinating facts from non-fiction books, and listening to children’s music all serve as my creative fuel.

5. Do you write on a computer or do you use notebook and paper? Do you think one is better than the other? Why?

I always begin with paper and pen; it’s relaxing. But once the ideas gush like a faucet turned on full blast, I have to switch to the computer because I can’t write fast enough to get all my thoughts down.

6.  Are you working on a new poetry collection? Can you give us a hint as to its theme? Does it feature shape poetry, too?

I’m currently polishing up three new manuscripts: a collection of classroom poems, a  nonfiction book that focuses on seeds and the fascinating ways seeds travel, and an ABC  collection of shape poems.