PPP Ezine: Who are your favorite poets, if possible, also tell us what makes them your favorite?
JO: My favorite poets are the traditionalists. Longfellow, Poe, Keats. Byron and Marlowe. Their grasp of the traditional and classics styles are pure perfection. In addition Maya Angelou for her real and proud poetry. Sylvia Plath is also a favorite. There is no other poet that has been able to master the art of imagery as she has. I am always in awe and striving for her talent in this area.
PPP Ezine: This one is a direct descendent of Matthew Arnold’s Touchstone Method: ‘They say that there are lines in a poem that make its heart. You may call them the poetry of poetry. Do you remember some such lines of yours or from some of your favorite poets that will help us understand your vision of poetry? If yes, please do give us some of those lines.
JO: I think in most poems, “the heart” is in the last lines of the poem. That is not always true but I have have found it to be the norm. An example is my poem that you have published. I am describing the Tai Chi with the last lines encompassing the message.
PPP Ezine: There has been a debate raging among the lovers of free verse and formal verse. Where do you stand in this debate? Why?
JO: In school we were taught formal/traditional verse. For me, I love traditional verse and writing traditional is much easier for me. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of formal styles out there and I think in order to write poetry at all, formal verse needs to be read and studied by poets. As far as the debate, poetry comes from the heart and as long as your words convey a message, the style is secondary. There are many publications that won’t even read anything other than free verse and personally I think that is wrong. By doing that they are inconsiderate of the poets’ unique voice.
PPP Ezine: You have been writing for a long time. If you could tell us something about what inspired you to write poems in the first place, and then, what kept you going, it’d be inspiring for the new poets.
JO: When I was ten years old, my Mom bought me a poetry book titled Speak Nature by James Walker Sr. I fell in love with poetry by reading that book. It was written in formal verse and each poem displayed a message about nature. I carried it everywhere I went. In fact I still have it and read through it the other day. Poetry was a means for me to express my feelings. I was very shy as a child and poetry allowed me to speak through my words. It is just a part of me now. It’s a corner of my soul
PPP Ezine: Give our new poets a few tips (3 or more) for composing well.
JO: First, always write from your heart. Second, Study all different types of poetry and that will help you find your own voice. Third, Imagery is a key component to poetry. Think of poetry as painting a picture on canvas with words.
PPP Ezine: Rejection is a life-long friend or enemy of a poet. Please tell us how you responded/respond to your rejections in the past, and now?
JO: When I first began writing poetry I was about 12 years old. I didn’t begin submitting until I was around 16. I received many rejections and that always made me feel terrible. Shortly after I entered a poem into a contest where the accepted poems were published in a book and the poets had to buy a copy. It was a vanity press. My poem was published and I received the copy., I was so excited and my Mom who always encouraged my poetry was even more excited. When my Father got home from work that day I showed him the book and he barely took a glance at my poem, threw it on the table and said “why do you waste your time with this? you are never going to make any money doing this.” I was so upset that I stopped writing for about a year. My Mom kept encouraging me to write so I began submitting again. That rejection from my Father actually helped me in that from then on whenever I received a rejection from a publisher, I took it as a challenge and wrote more and submitted more.
Now, I really don’t submit anymore as I have hundreds of publication credits to my name but it is always nice to be published again.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: There is an interesting story of how JO submitted her poems to PPP Ezine. Our poet Sofia Kiroglou made a kind of prophesy by counting JO among the poets published in the ezine. I appealed to JO in the name of poetry, Sofia, and prophesy to send her poems to the ezine, and graceful as she ever is, she sent her poems.]
PPP Ezine: A poet has a cultivated mind. Give us some pointers to cultivate the poetic faculties/genius.
JO: A poet is forever curious and that is what makes a great poet. Experiencing the world and different cultures, experiencing nature and what is has to offer and being passionate about someone or some cause is what cultivates the poetic faculties genius. Another point, let’s say you are walking along a road and there is a rock on the road. Look at the rock and become the rock and then write a poem as the rock. I was taught this in a creative writing class in high school. It’s a great way to cultivate imagery.
PPP Ezine: You have been published and read widely. Please give some tips on submission that increases the chances for selection.
JO: As you well know, I am a stickler for submission guidelines. I would say follow the guidelines to the letter. Beyond that write from your heart.