Patrice Vecchione is an author, poet, artist and teacher. She edited one of my favorite poetry anthologies from last year: Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. Some of her other poetry anthologies include: Truth and Lies, Revenge and Forgiveness, and Faith and Doubt and other works focused on teaching and writing include The Knot Untied, Writing and the Spiritual Life: Finding Your Voice by Looking Within, Territory of Wind. She has taught poetry and creative writing for many years with her writing program The Heart of the Word: Poetry and the Imagination. Here she writes about her newest book:
My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Poetry Writing Resource for Speaking In and Speaking Out.
(New York: Seven Stories/Triangle Square, 2020)
I'm so happy to feature her "back story" on the writing of her new book here below. Welcome, Patrice!
Before a single word of each of my three nonfiction books touched paper, I've first lived their content, but none more so than My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Guide to Writing Poetry & Speaking Your Truth.
When I was a colicky newborn, my mother began reciting poems, telling stories and singing songs to me while rocking me to sleep. Not, of course, that I have a conscious memory of those first days. But I do remember being a little girl on a Manhattan park swing, listening to my mother as she pushed me from behind while reciting Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Swing.” Whenever I recite one of many poems she gave me, it’s my mother’s voice I hear in my head. “How do you like to go up in the air, up in the air so blue?” she’d nearly sing, and time after time, right when she got to the word “air,” she’d have taken me there, up into its blue expanse.
In elementary school, the first book I bought with my own money was A Quartet of Poems, a Puffin paperback that, though falling apart, is still in my library. During my difficult middle and high school years and young adulthood, when my mother no longer recited poems to me, still that magical, transformative artform was part and parcel of my days. No longer Stevenson nor Milne nor Eleanor Farjeon, but May Swenson, William Stafford, Theodore Roethke, Basho and Buson, then Anne Sexton, Maxine Kumin, Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, and so it went from there. The more poems I read, the more there were to read!
During high school I began writing them myself. As I say in My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: “One morning during her first year of high school, wearing the brown felt hat with the beaded sunburst on the front (the hat she wore even to bed), her long hair falling down the length of her back, she walked out of class, giving no reason… Pulling out a small notebook and a chewed-up pencil from the back pocket of her jeans, the girl began to write. Unlike the dread and drudgery that came with classroom writing, this was nearly effortless. It was as if the poem were writing her.”
Writing poems was the intimate, honest way I talked to myself; it’s how I discovered what I truly felt and thought without risking that my mother, father or a teacher would tell me I’d gotten it wrong. Writing them was how I was able to make a distinction between myself and my dis-functional family. And more. When I wrote a poem, I made something tangible from the intangible, and in doing so I made myself real, and sometimes what I made gave me a sense of beauty and pride.
Shortly after high school, I got it in my head that because of how much reading and writing poems served me, doing so might support others, and so I taught myself how to teach poetry by volunteering for a year at an elementary school. I’ve been writing and teaching in schools and leading writing workshops for children and adults for over 40 years. More than once, poetry has saved my life, and I’ve witnessed its powers of transformation in my students, so how could I ever do anything else?
I’m not sure, did My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice start to come into being when I was born or when I began writing poems or the day I walked into that first classroom with a passel of poems in hand and stood before a group of eager students?
Sylvia: Thanks so much for taking the time to give us a glimpse "behind the curtain," Patrice. This is a tremendous resource for us-- especially right now when we can all use a bit more guidance. Now head on over to Molly's blog, Nix the Comfort Zone, where she is collecting all our lovely Poetry Friday musings. Take care and stay healthy, everyone!