Journeying to “Visions and Memories”
by Mike Turner
Please welcome Mike Turner back to the Writers Journey Blog this week with his latest work, "Visions and Memories."
Journeying to “Visions and Memories”
These are the things which I still know
The visions that I see
Our dreams have turned to memories
Of I, and you, and we
From the poem, “Visions and Memories,” by Mike Turner
I’m Mike Turner, a songwriter and poet living on the US Gulf Coast. My thanks to Elaine for inviting me to return to the Blog - I’ve written several prior guest entries about my writing process, but never really anything about what I actually write - so I appreciate the opportunity to do so now!
This is the story of an unexpected writer’s journey - not a detour, exactly, more like an unplanned divergence leading to to expanded horizons: the writing and publishing of my poetry collection, Visions and Memories.
I had a long professional career having nothing to do with creativity: for 27 years I was a Federal investigator, probing such crimes as drug smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, weapons exports and commercial frauds. Over the years I moved into management, running offices in Southern California and Arizona and winding up as head of the Commerce Department’s Office of Export Enforcement in Washington, DC. In all those years my writing was purely technical: investigative reports, interview memoranda, prosecution and penalty correspondence, regulations and procedural manuals, public relations magazine articles. Nothing “creative” at all - it was literally a, ‘just the facts,” type of work!
When I retired in 2007, I spent a lot of time with my wife in some of our favorite pursuits: boating, hiking, biking, travel. But I felt the call of expression - a desire to put to words some of my thoughts and perspectives about things like life, love, loss, truth, justice.
I come from a very musical family - some of my relatives are well-known in gospel music circles - but I’d never done anything musical myself. Watching TV one evening three or four years after I retired, I saw someone playing ukulele, and thought, “That looks like it would be fun.” I bought a mail-order ukulele and signed up for an adult ed class in beginner’s uke.
And a funny thing happened - by the 2nd week of the course, I’d not only gotten far ahead of the class in the basics (mostly because my wife was out of town and I spent hours every day practicing, and had the blisters to prove it!), but had written my first song! It was called, “Ukulele Playin’ Blues,” and was about, naturally enough, how I’d found my musical muse through the uke. I found the whole experience pretty amusing, since no one who knew me in my professional career would ever have pegged me as a ukulele player, much less a songwriter! Here’s a link to a version of “Ukulele Playin’ Blues” on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/aZv24AuCj4U
I’ve had some good success with songwriting through the years - earned some awards, won some contests, gotten a good bit of radio play. But as I grew as a writer, I found there were some things I wanted to say that didn’t lend themselves to some of songwriting’s conventions - things like all the rhyming, chorus/verse repetition and structure, some of the darker themes I wanted to address.
And so without really planning it, I started writing poetry. I didn’t share much of it, and in the beginning just thought of it as an extension of what I was doing musically.
Four years ago (2019), in celebration of National Poetry Month, I decided to write and post a poem a day. The response from folks who followed me on FaceBook was very positive, and a number of friends encouraged me to get my poems published. I joined some FaceBook writer groups, identified some on-line and print journals that accepted poetry, and gave it a try - and, to my surprise, began to have a number of pieces published. Before long, it seemed like I was writing and publishing more poems than I was songs!
Over the next year or so, I met a lot of great writers, editors and publishers who supported and encouraged my writing. One in particular was Steven Lester Carr, who published several of my poems in anthologies from his Sweetycat Press. In March 2021 Steve asked me if I’d ever thought about publishing a book of my poems. My immediate answer was, “No” - I’d never really thought about it, and didn’t see it as a particular goal.
Steve was somewhat insistent - he was good that way - telling me that he wanted the opportunity to bring my poetry to a wider audience. How do you say no to that? So, in June 2021, my book, Visions and Memories, hit the shelves.
The book contains 66 poems, arranged in sections around themes of Reflections, Compassion and Justice, Truth and Beauty, Music, Tales, Nature, Sailing, Loss and Despair, and Love . About half of the poems were previously published in on-line and print journals; the balance are both poems I had previously written but not submitted for publishing, and new works created specifically for the collection. Both rhyming and free-style poems are featured.
Here’s a sample, from the section on “Love” (this poem was first published by the on-line journal, “Academy of the Heart and Mind”):
And Yet, We Love
is to take
the essence of oneself
And offer it up
naked, defenseless, vulnerable
that it will be vouchsafed tenderly
And lingering knowledge
that all may be lost
Sales? Well, I’m not on the New York Times bestseller list just yet - but sales really weren’t the point. As Steve (who sadly passed away last year - he was a good mentor and friend, as well as an outstanding writer himself, and I miss him) said, the goal was to get my poetry to a wider audience, and it’s been successful in that. It’s led done book signings, and readings, podcasts and writers’ night presentations - all of which not only resulted in sales, but grew my social media following, which means people see not only what’s in the book but what’s new as I have poems published in journals and anthologies.
Reviews have been gratifying:
“Works that are deeply personal, broader themes that are universal”
“I truly enjoyed reading these poignant poems. They told tales of life using imagery, symbolism, and emotion in original ways“
“The author takes us on an awesome journey… thanks for sharing your world with readers everywhere.”
One of the nicer accolades was learning that poems from the book were being read in morning meditation sessions at a local yoga studio.
I’ve donated copies to a number of area libraries, where I’m pleased to say it’s on their shelves. And given the wonders of modern-day publishing-on-demand and e-book formats, Visions and Memories is still out there for purchase. So my poems are waiting to be discovered by new readers.
I invite you to take a look - Visions and Memories is available on Amazon: https://a.co/d/g32O1xN or click the cover below.
And please follow my FaceBook writer’s page @MikeTurnerSongwriter ( www.facebook.com/MikeTurnerSongwriter ) - it’s where I announce the latest poems and songs I’ve had published/released and other news about my writing.
You can also follow my songs on my YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/MikeTurnerSongwriter .
Who knows - maybe soon you’ll be reading about the next divergent path I’m led down, on my continuing Writer’s Journey!
Bio: Mike Turner is an award-winning songwriter and poet living on the US Gulf Coast. Named Male Gospel Entertainer of the Year (2017) by the North America Country Music Associations International, his original songs have received radio and streaming airplay in the U.S., UK, Ireland, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and on the US Armed Forces Radio Network. Mike has had more than 250 poems published in over 60 journals and anthologies; his debut collection, Visions and Memories, was published by Sweetycat Press in 2021. When not writing and recording, Mike and his wife Pamela Caudill explore the backwaters and bayous of the Gulf Coast aboard their classic trawler.