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Featured Poet  for February 2006
Ellaraine Lockie: From Picture Books to Poetry

Interview Conducted by Andrew Angus
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Note: The interview is cut short because the full interview will be published in the print edition of Muses Review.
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Finishing Lines
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Ellaraine Lockie,
Poet from California
Buy this Chapbook: Finishing Lines
To: "muses Muses Review"  
From: "Ellaraine Lockie"  
Subject: My interview questions answered 
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 20:07:59 -0800 

Interview Answers for Muses Review, February Issue:   

Part I.  Your Opinion.   

1.What motivated you to write poetry?   

  I came to poetry through the back door of children's picture books.  Seven years ago I had not read a poem since high school, except for the occasional one I came across in the children's literature that I was studying.  I thought I hated poetry; I thought it had to rhyme.  Then one day an old friend sent me some of his poems and wanted my opinion.  I liked them, but they didn't rhyme.  So I called my children's writing mentors for advice.  When they told me about free verse, I became obsessed with writing it and with getting it published.  This happened at a rough time in my life, and poetry was my salvation.   

2. Do you consider yourself an outsider in literary circles? If yes, why? If no, why? 

Well, I don't often think of myself in relationship to others.  It's just never been a factor.  Growing up in a small western farming town taught me a great deal of emotional independence--to the point where I'm often oblivious to cliques or groups.  I do gravitate toward other writers, especially poets, but they come from all different categories; some are publishers/editors, some are beginners who don't have a thing published. 

3. What are your favorite themes in writing poetry? 

I write about any subject that moves me in some strong way.  Focuses so far have been:  women's midlife years, relationships, illicit love, eroticism, international travel, people, places (especially Montana where I grew up), endings of all kinds and nature in the form of haiku.  But I have as well a big file containing poems in just about any general category. 

4. Why should people read your poetry book or any poetry book?

  People should read poetry because it is truth stripped bare.  It readily reveals what is often obscured in the text of other writing genres.  With poetry's economy of words, there comes concentrated power that can be life-changing in readers.  Poetry creates those "Ah HA!" moments when it says what readers can't or won't say for themselves. 

  Poetry also can offer readers a certain kind of therapy akin to what one might find in a supportive friend.  I've gotten a flood of responses from menopausal women who found comfort in reading my two midlife chapbooks.  One fifty-year old woman said she keeps them on her bedside stand and re-reads a few poems every night because then she doesn't feel so alone and peculiar.  Another ordered copies for each member of her support group and used the poems as springboards for discussion. 

  And then there's the sheer beauty of well-chosen words in a good poem- the way words slide off the tongue in a lyrical way.  There's great satisfaction in reading them silently and music in reading them out loud. 

5. Tell  the readers about your latest poem chapbook - Finishing Lines. What is the chap all about? 

FINISHING LINES focuses on endings--of people, animals, places, relationships, seasons of life; and death is of course the ultimate ending.  I'm fascinated with endings.  We all deal with small ones on a daily basis--the ending of a day, for instance.  Then as we reach middle age, we increasingly have to cope with endings.  Things, animate and inanimate alike, just wear out.  It seemed to me to be a universal topic for a poetry collection.  

  6. What is the cover design all about? 

The cover of FINISHING LINES is a photo I took depicting the 1904-built family home of a rancher in Warrick, Montana, which is really part of the prairie surrounding my hometown of Big Sandy.  I had wanted the photo to be of my family's homestead house, which has been recently torn down; however the quality of the photos I had of it weren't good enough.  The house I used is still standing. 

7. Do you have a pen name when you write poems? 

I use three pen names.  I have great fun with them and in addition find them to be useful in many ways.  But this could be the subject of an entire interview. 

8. Where can people buy your poem chapbooks aside from Muses Review?

The last three chapbooks are available from the publishers; the first chapbook, Midlife Muse, is sold out, however. 

9. Do you like to travel? If yes, what countries have you been so far? 

Travel constitutes much of my life.  I have been very fortunate to have traveled to many European countries, Japan, Bali, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada,  Hawaii, Alaska, and South Africa, and well as to most of the forty-eight states.  

10. What is the title of your longest poem so far? 

"Hometown Blues" is about three pages, although it's published in a shorter version in my latest solo broadsheet from Poets West in Seattle. 

11. What is so good about being a poet? 

Poetry is the most liberating force in my life.  It's like no other genre of writing.  We have so much freedom as poets, not only with subject matter, but with form as well.  I'm a strong believer of telling the truth in poetry but telling it slant, as Emily Dickinson recommended.  After all, poetry is creative writing.  There is a quote by Larry Levis that I also love: "Out here, I can say anything."  I'm not sure what the context of the quote was originally, but I like to think he's talking about poetry.  

In addition to the freedom factor, for me poetry is healing.  And sometimes I hear from other people that my poems are healing for them too. 

Poetry also serves to help me determine how I really feel and think about something.  I often go into a poem knowing I have strong connections with the subject but am somehow unable to express it effectively.  Sometimes the reason is that I haven't dug deep enough into myself to get at the core of myself.  Poetry makes me do that.   

12. What event/s triggered you to go into poetry? 

The rough time I mentioned above was a severe addiction to Valium.  I moved to my daughter's apartment in L. A. for two weeks, locked myself up in her bedroom and did the withdrawal cold turkey.  This   coincided with learning that poetry didn't have to rhyme.  I began writing free verse poems like crazy and had completed most of what became my first collection by the end of the two weeks.  This collection won Poetry Forum's chapbook contest the next year. 

13. How do you see yourself  in five years time as a poet? 

I hope to have a couple of full collections of poems published and to be teaching my poetry workshop on a bigger scale. 

14. Have you experienced reading your poems in front of the audience? If yes, how does it feel? 

I just wrote an essay, The Poem in Public, on that subject for a 20th Anniversary book currently being published by a local poetry group called the Waverley Poets in Palo Alto, California.  In this essay I describe how terrified I was when I first began reading my poems to others.  I only did so when forced in order to acknowledge an award.  At one such reading in Berkeley, I actually hyperventilated and couldn't finish the poem. 

Then a couple years ago, I was asked to do a recording for a radio show, and I heard myself read for the first time.  It was an illuminating experience in that I could see what I was doing wrong.  I decided instantly to become a good reader.  I formed a plan to attend every public poetry reading I could find.  It was in doing so that I learned just how much reading out loud helped me to see problems within my poems--problems with line breaks, rhythm, repetition and even with content.   Reading out loud to others is a fabulous tool!  And now I've become one of those poets who doesn't want to sit down when my time is up at readings. 

15. Is poetry the most difficult art or the easiest art? 

I believe poetry and children's picture books are the most difficult genres to write.  They both need to say so much in so few words.  There's a saying (and I don't know whose this is):  If I would have had more time, it would have been shorter. 

16. Is poetry a literary art or a spoken art? 


It's both and has been since the invention of the written word.  

17. I read in your short biography that you won many literary prizes in writing and poetry. Can you name at least 5 of them and indicate if this is for writing or poetry and indicate the year you received the awards? 

I haven't really kept track of the years, but they've all been from 1999 to 2004.  I mostly stopped competing in contests after 2004 when I began judging some of them.  Most of the awards have been for poetry, and here are some of them:  The Kay Snow Award for Poetry, the Cindi Bell Memorial Award, the John E. Meeker Award and the Currycomb English Award, as well as First Places in contests sponsored by the Quincy Writers Guild, Women in the Arts, Gulf Coast Writer's Association, French Bread Publications, Lucidity, Blue Sky Waters, California Poetry Society, Arizona Authors' Association, Annual Berkeley Poets' Dinner, North American open Poetry Contest, Tickled by Thunder, Poets at Work and numerous county fairs.  I've been also a semi-finalist in the Discovery/The Nation contest and a finalist in the Writer's Digest contest.   

18. Did you win any major poetry prize? If yes, can you name the major poetry prize?


Major is relative, I think.  Major for me was to have won a First Place at the Berkeley Poets'  Dinner, a highly competitive annual contest that has the distinction of existing for longer than the Academy Awards.  Monetary wise, the most I've won for a single award has been $300, and that was for the Kay Snow Award. 

19. Some people do not like poetry? Any ideas why? 

I think poetry has lost much of its audience because people can't understand it.  Academic poetry has its place (with the academics),  but far too many people (potential readers) don't realize that there is accessible poetry being written nowadays, too.  Unfortunately, much of it is published in the small presses and doesn't find its way to the general public.  Two of the three last U. S. Poet Laureates, Billy Collins and our current Ted Kooser have made tremendous progress in bringing poetry back to the people.  They are two of my poetry heroes.    

   20. In your opinion, who is the best female poet in the past centuries? 


I'm not very well read in poetry from the past.  I prefer contemporary poetry, and it's been only in the past couple of years that I have voraciously been reading that. 

21. Are poetry books difficult to sell? If yes, why?

For most poets, yes, and I think it goes back to my answer about the inaccessibility of poems that reach the general public.  

22. What is the latest poetry book (not your book) you have read? 

THE WELLSPRING by Sharon Olds 

23. Have you experienced judging  poetry contests before? 

Yes, I began being asked to judge contests three years ago.  It's a way I can give back to something that has so greatly enriched my life. 

24. Aside from Muses Review, what other literary ezine/s you like to visit?  

I generally read only the ones where my work is published in that issue, and I do the same for issues that print poems by poet friends.   Some recent ones I've enjoyed are The Centrifugal Eye, Triplopia, The Hyper Texts, Mannequin Envy, Carnelian, Thunder Sandwich, Word Riot and Mastodon Dentist. 

25. How long have you been in the hand-made paper business? 

Fourteen years. 

26. How did you start in the hand-made paper business? 

I've had a fetish for handmade paper ever since I was nearly arrested fifteen years ago in Japan for fondling it in a store.  I was living there for a summer and came home with a whole collection of handmade papers.  I took a class designed for artists, but I wanted the papers for use as stationery.  So I went home and obsessively taught myself how to make it that way.  Within months I was teaching workshops on the process. 

27. Have you experienced teaching poetry? 

Yes, I teach a poetry workshop that I call "From Picture Books to Poetry" that had its origins when I was asked to be a guest lecturer for an English summer class at Occidental College in L. A.  I didn't know what to teach the class, and the professor for whom I was teaching said, "Just teach them how you go about writing poetry."  My process turned out to be quite unique, and I've been teaching and enlarging the scope of the workshop ever since.   

28. What is your day job right now? 

I'm a full time writer and papermaker. 

29. Do you consider yourself  a businesswoman? 

Absolutely.   

30. Aside from hand-made paper, what are your other business inclinations? 

I treat my writing of nonfiction books, articles and poetry as a business.  It's the flip side of creativity, and I think both sides are essential if one wants to get published. 

31. Your official email  address: 

elockie@comcast.net

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Copyright 2006 by Muses Review. All rights reserved.
Spotlight On:
Ellaraine Lockie - Businesswoman, Handmade Paper Specialist, Poet-Writer


by Andrew Angus

    Ellaraine Lockie is a businesswoman who specializes in hand-made paper. She has been in the business of handmade paper for 14 years.

    Ellaraine's story how she  developed a passion for hand-made paper is as interesting as how she developed a passion for poetry. Her passion for hand-made paper started in Japan where she encountered  Japanese paper.

   Japan is famous for its paper in Asia. Where can you find a country that uses paper as walls for its house exterior and interior?  Japan is one country that uses paper extensively for its house  interior dividers  and exterior walls. The traditional houses in Japan have  paper for its interior dividers and exterior walls.

  Handmade paper making  is an ancient craft.  The ancient Egyptians used papyrus plant to make paper scrolls.

   I reviewed Ellaraine's book entitled
The Gourmet Paper Maker released in 2001 by Creative Publishing International.  The book is very attractive since it has plenty of colored photos that show the step-by-step process of making paper in our kitchen. The book's unique selling point includes how to make different textured paper from inedible fruit wastes (melon rinds, banana peelings) and inedible vegetable wastes (corn husks, asparagus ends). The book is made  for beginners to expert handmade papers alike.

   Even poets and writers can make a hobby or even earn extra income from making homemade paper since
paper is one of the basic tools of the trade of poets and writers.

  I asked Ellaraine how did you start in the hand-made paper business?  Her reply was:  "I've had a fetish for handmade paper ever since I was nearly arrested fifteen years ago in Japan for fondling it in a store.  I was living there for a summer and came home with a whole collection of handmade papers.  I took a class designed for artists, but I wanted the papers for use as stationery.  So I went home and obsessively taught myself how to make it that way.  Within months I was teaching workshops on the process."
 
    I wondered why would a handmade paper businesswoman dabble in poetry. Aside from handmade paper, Ellaraine developed a passion for poetry in a different, painful route. She encountered free verse at a time when she was at her roughest point of her life and poetry rescued her.  As she puts it: "poetry was my salvation."

   I asked Ellaraine what motivated her to write poetry? Ellaraine replied: " I came to poetry through the back door of children's picture books.  Seven years ago I had not read a poem since high school, except for the occasional one I came across in the children's literature that I was studying.  I thought I hated poetry; I thought it had to rhyme.  Then one day an old friend sent me some of his poems and wanted my opinion.  I liked them, but they didn't rhyme.  So I called my children's writing mentors for advice.  When they told me about free verse, I became obsessed with writing it and with getting it published.  This happened at a rough time in my life, and poetry was my salvation."   

   Ellaraine is a practical poet because she treats poetry as a business. In effect, poetry is a source of livelihood for Ellaraine Lockie as music is a source of livelihood for Mariah Carey  and Madonna. As Ellaraine revealed to me in an interview: "I treat my writing of nonfiction books, articles and poetry as a business.  It's the flip side of creativity, and I think both sides are essential if one wants to get published." 

   Ellaraine is originally from Montana but now residing in California. She finished Sociology but now uses her knowledge in sociology in business and literature.
   
     At present,  she has already  published four chapbooks in poetry with the following titles:
Midlife Muse, Crossing the Center Line, Coloring Outside the Lines and Finishing Lines. She has won many poetry awards from 1999 to  2004. Aside from composing poetry, she also teaches poetry in a workshop called "From Picture Books to Poetry".

      As of this moment, Ellaraine's three poems "Death Comes to Dinner",  "Autumn's End" and "Stiff"  are nominated for the "Best Poem of Year 2005 for the 2nd Muses Prize - Poetry".

  I reviewed Ellaraine's latest poem chapbook,
Finishing Lines. I was surprised because I thought that  Ellaraine seems to be obsessed with death in her latest chapbook . Based on my analysis of her poems in the chapbook, most of her poems deal with death of a person or death in nature.  To make sure my review is not wrong, I decided to ask Ellaraine what her chapbook is all about.

   In her own words,  "FINISHING LINES focuses on endings--of people, animals, places, relationships, seasons of life; and death is of course the ultimate ending.  I'm fascinated with endings.  We all deal with small ones on a daily basis--the ending of a day, for instance.  Then as we reach middle age, we increasingly have to cope with endings.  Things, animate and inanimate alike, just wear out.  It seemed to me to be a universal topic for a poetry collection."  
  My analysis of her poems is correct. But, Ellaraine explains that "endings" is a universal topic for a poetry collection. For that,  I gave Ellaraine's poem chapbook a full rating of "5 laurels" which means "excellent". Ellaraine's poem chapbook is very coherent. All her poems contributed well to the theme of "endings". Her poems are connected to the title of her chapbook  -
Finishing Lines.

  With a background of sociology, Ellaraine can enrich her poems with her knowledge of group dynamics and society. I have interviewed many poets whose background is not literature. And Ellaraine is one of them.

  Handmade paper and poetry make  a good winning combination since you can print your poems  on these strong handmade papers. Ellaraine combines her two passions in life, paper and poetry, in business. She also shares her passions in life  by giving workshops on handmade paper and poetry.

   If you are interested to attend her poetry workshop or handmade paper workshop, you may contact Ellaraine Lockie by email or her website at: www.musesreview.org/ellarainelockie.html.

If you are interested to know about her ideas on poetry, I would suggest that you read the interview I conducted and entitled, "Ellaraine Lockie: From Picture Books to Poetry".
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(End of feature) Copyright 2006  by Muses Review. All rights reserved.
Buy This  Book:
Finishing Lines
Ellaraine Lockie,
Poet from California
Visit:
Ellaraine Lockie's website in
Muses Review.