Oyster River Pages: Who are the writers who have made you who you are?
Sandy Coomer: My mentor, the poet Bill Brown, gave me unending support and patience during my time at "The Writer's Loft," a creative writing program at Middle TN State University, and still does today as a dear friend. Let's just say I knew nothing about poetic craft back then, and his kindness, gentle instruction, and encouragement made me think I had something of value to give the world through my writing. My friend and fellow writer, Terry Price, has been a generous teacher and supporter of my creative journey. I began seriously writing poetry later in life (age 46!) and I've felt Terry's influence on the way I view creativity and the writer's life from the start. Plus, he's so darn charming! Finally, there have been so many women poet/writer friends who have read my work, offered feedback, commiserated with me on rejections, celebrated my successes, and generally been a part of my writer's village. Their presence in my life is invaluable. I would list all their names here, but . . . it might be too many for the space allowed!
ORP: What are the lenses that shape your worldview?
SC: I believe strongly in the connectivity, worth, and belonging of all people. I believe every voice matters, regardless of skill level, educational background, lifestyle, or any other parameter we create to label others as "less than." I want to encourage writers to believe more fully in themselves and to take the risk of sharing their voices. It is our voices and spirits that are able to change, to save, our world. I love this quote by Rumi: "Only from the heart can you touch the sky." Our strength is in our emotion and the love we share with others. We all belong.
ORP: What’s the most important thing you’ve read/seen lately?
SC: The submissions in the first reading period of Rockvale Review, the new online poetry journal for which I am the founding editor. I am enamored with the lovely poems we have received and thrilled to interact with the poets who wrote them. It was one of my dreams to be able to share the beauty of words with the world, and the start of this journal allows me, in some small way, to be a part of the larger environment of welcome to new and emerging writers. Find Rockvale review here: www.rockvalereview.com
ORP: What’s your least favorite word? Why?
SC: "Unforgiving." Yes, there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed, but I can afford to give grace in most instances. Everybody struggles and makes mistakes - sometimes big ones. There is space in this world for second chances and even for overlooking certain wrongs. Plus, carrying the burden of unforgiveness is too heavy a weight for me. I'm also not fond of the words "judgmental," "superiority," or "cruelty."
ORP: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve created? (line, image, story, etc.)
SC: I have poems that move in and out of my sphere of favorites at any given time. Right now, I'm mighty fond of the poem "Unknowing," which is about unlearning the things that hold you down from your brightest life and claiming the things that give you wings.
ORP: What do you want to read more of in the world?
SC: It would be too easy to say poetry, wouldn't it?! So I'll go a step further and say Ekphrastic Poetry, which is poetry that responds to another form of creativity, most often visual art. I like the push and pull of combining creative forces and seeing the results which are often more intricate and interesting than either creative endeavor by itself.
ORP: How do you pay it forward?
SC: I'm helping to promote more poet voices in the world by publishing the online journal Rockvale Review. I'm a poetry mentor in the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program which pairs beginning writers with published writers and allows for discussion of all aspects of the writer's life, plus feedback on a manuscript. I also lead a poetry critique group that welcomes new poets alongside regular attendees.
ORP: What is the space that has shaped you the most?
SC: My writing desk at home. I have a large bulletin board above it that has pictures of my favorite people, quotes that are meaningful to me, cards people send me, affirmations, snippets of poems, little reminders to be true to myself. Also, I have a small tray that holds items I've collected over the years that have special meaning to me - random items that nobody else could make sense of, but to me frame my life's pivotal moments. This is my home base. It helps me to hold my shape even when circumstances shake my foundation.
ORP: You’ve just written your autobiography. What’s the title?
SC: That's easy. "Believe." It's the word that directs my life, my creative journey, and my dreams for the future. It's the word that I've held in my palm whenever doubts threatened to undo me. It's my guiding principle, my life's motto, my hope, my passion for becoming who I'm meant to be.
Sandy Coomer is a poet and mixed media artist. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Continuum (Finishing Line Press), The Presence of Absence (Winner of the 2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry), and the forthcoming Rivers Within Us(Unsolicited Press). Sandy is a poetry mentor in the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, the recipient of fellowships and scholarships to three writers-in-residency programs, and the founding editor of the new online poetry journal Rockvale Review. She lives in Brentwood, TN. Find her poems here.