MY WRITING JOURNEY
Please welcome Martina Reisz Newberry with her Writing Journey to the Writer's Journey Blog!
I began reading when I was 3 years old. I was an only child–scrawny, terribly near-sighted, terribly shy and books were dear friends to me. The first book I recall really cherishing was “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. I memorized many of those poems–loved the rhythm, the dance of the words. I wanted to write poems from that point in my life to now. I’ve been writing poems for about 70+ years.
That being said, my first book was a kind of memoir. It was titled “Lima Beans and City Chicken,” published by E.P. Dutton. It was about growing up in the Inland Empire (Upland, Fontana, Ontario) The daughter of a steelworker and a homemaker. After it was published and had been out for a while, I tried writing fiction, short stories, essays, but nothing ever really got to me like poetry did and does. My first book of poems was a chapbook titled “An Apparent Approachable Light.” I had been entering a few poems here and there and came across this contest for an Editor’s Choice prize from Astra Press and won it. The prize was publishing, and I was thrilled. I still love that little book.
Pivotal and responsible in a great measure for my writing life was my meeting with and relationship to the poet Larry Kramer (R.I.P.) I attended a workshop he gave in or around 1983 and it changed me and influenced my writing forever. He became teacher, mentor, friend, brother to me. He paid for and helped me get into a summer writing program at Bennington College in Vermont. He taught me more about poetry–about my relationship to and my responsibility to poetry– than anyone has since. Everything that I’ve done since meeting him has been with his soul at my shoulder like an angel–always teaching, always criticizing, always praising. His book, “Brilliant Windows,” is a masterpiece. I never start a writing day without thinking of him and thanking his spirit.
My motivation for writing poems is fairly simple: Ad liberabo linguae atque cordis–It means To free the tongue and the heart.
It feels important to me to present things to the reader that will, not only show them how I see, but will free their tongues and hearts to get in touch with what they see. I love writing for the most part. Even when I hit times that I’m not having many poems accepted or not turning out my best work, I so respect the writing process that I do it anyway.
I’m a fairly disciplined writer. I get up, have coffee (either at home or out), and write for a good part of the day; sometimes all day if it’s going well. I start by looking at the previous day’s work and put it aside to work on it further down the line. Then I read something(s)–poems, selections from novels, or non-fiction. I think about what I’ve read for a while, then go to my notebook and start a poem. A good friend told me “There are characters, words, images, phrases knocking at the door of your mind and heart. Just relax, answer the door, and let them in.” It works every time. It’s a rare day when I don’t write.
When I am out and about or watching T.V. or listening to music, etc., just relaxing, things catch my eye/ear: conversations on a bus or in a coffee shop, a photo, a note on a bulletin board, a movie poster, song lyrics, overheard arguments, secrets told to me, secrets KEPT from me. Often, I visit places inside myself where I do not wish to go and write from those places: challenges, deep fears, griefs, anger, frustration, etc. I write a lot about Los Angeles. L.A. is my woman, my mother, my sister, my lover, my friend, my monster. I am L.A ’s slave and her bitch and her partner and her conqueror and her patient and her most fervent fan. Los Angeles has been my comfort and sometimes a dangerous companion. I love this city nearly as much as I have loved any person.
Every writer has bumps in the road and victories. I’ve been supremely privileged and honored to have books published by Deerbrook Editions– an independent press owned and operated by a brilliant artist and friend, Jeffrey Haste. He has had unfaltering faith in my work and presents it in beautiful books. He’s very much my friend, as well as my publisher, and each book feels like a victory.
I think the biggest bump I’ve encountered is aging. Youth is a huge “cult” in the United States. Sometimes that particular cult’s edicts and expectations disrupt the arts, frighten artists out of their own creativity and it can be difficult to have confidence in what I do.
I continually remind myself that I’m not a careerist, I’m an artist–a writer, and I go on writing and will continue to do so.
BIOGRAPHY- Martina Reisz Newberry is the author of 6 books of poetry. Her most recent book is BLUES FOR FRENCH ROAST WITH CHICORY, available from Deerbrook Editions. She is the author of NEVER COMPLETELY AWAKE (from Deerbrook Editions) and TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME (Unsolicited Press). She is also the author of WHERE IT GOES (Deerbrook Editions). LEARNING BY ROTE (Deerbrook Editions) and RUNNING LIKE A WOMAN WITH HER HAIR ON FIRE: Collected Poems (Red Hen Press).
Newberry has been included in "The Sixty-Four Best Poets of 2018" (Black Mountain Press/The Halcyone Magazine editorial staff). She has also been included in Albany Poets, Big Windows, The Cenacle, Clay Literary Magazine, Blue Nib, Braided Way, Los Angeles Cultural Weekly, Mortar Magazine, The Phoenix Magazine. Poesis, Roanoke Review, Sisyphus, THAT Literary Review, and many other literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. Her work can be found in the anthologies Marin Poetry Center Anthology, Moontide Press Horror Anthology, A Decade of Sundays: L.A.'s Second Sunday Poetry Series–The First Ten Years, and others. She has been awarded residencies at Yaddo Colony for the Arts, Djerassi Colony for the Arts, and Anderson Center for Disciplinary Arts.
Passionate in her love for Los Angeles, Martina currently lives there with her husband, Brian Newberry, a Media Creative.
THE OTHER POEM
(from the book “Where It Goes”)
This is not the poem about the glories
of battle, the courage on the battlefield,
the beauty in loss and the nobility of death.
No, this is not that poem.
And this is not the poem about returning
soldiers and laughing families and special
deals at the restaurants for veterans.
This is not the poem in praise of
drugs that get us through the night,
nights that strain toward daylight,
the letters from the fields,
the letters from the field hospitals,
the photos of seven guys and a girl
on a tank smiling for the camera,
smiling their sweet lives away
on top of a fucking tank.
No, this is not that poem.
It is not the poem
that clarifies, beatifies, lionizes.
Thirty days or ten years,
of going away and coming back
have made fighting no clearer to me now
than it ever was.
Birds of prey see us as
weak and foolish. They cannot
love such stupid beings
but they can scan the
bare dirt of wartime and eat
from what lies there.
This is not the poem
that has blocked egregious
combat from our real lives.
(I wish that nice poem was here now
to come all this way with me.
Life has been so much more
serious than that poem was.)
You see, I hate it.
Every battle, every death,
every mutilation, every POW,
every lonely wife, sister, parent, husband
waiting in line for good news.
I hate the vision and the circumstances,
the hope, the foolishness, the ravage.
Well, what to say now…? All I
can do is look up at you and admit
that I’ve lied. You have guessed it,
haven’t you, that this is, absolutely,