The Ten Spot: Meet Carol L. Deering
Interview by Dan O’Brien
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Though I’m now a long-way grown, I have such fun juggling phrases, flipping letters and sounds (like “bolster” and “lobster”), feeling the texture of images, tasting words and silences, creating my own quirky rhymes – that I can’t imagine settling for maturity.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTES TO REMAINING SANE AS A WRITER?
If by sanity you mean staying balanced or “normal” when getting a poem or manuscript rejected, I can only offer commiseration. But if you mean how to keep on keeping on with writing, it certainly helps me to live in and visit areas surrounded by wilderness and nature. Wyoming has many places full of space and peace, wildlife, mountains, wildfires, weather – and writers constantly wrestle with how best to describe and comprehend it all.
It also helps to have a supportive spouse (thanks, Andy!), and to belong to a small group of writers. I’m a founding member of West Thumb Poets, a half-dozen far-flung poets who’ve been together for a dozen years, meeting each summer in Yellowstone (and recently reading our poems at Lake Lodge Hotel). I’m involved as well in a brand-new group of local writers which grew out of a series of readings I organized last April. In and out of comfort zones – I think that’s part of the trick, too.
WHAT WAS THE GREATEST THING YOU LEARNED AT SCHOOL?
I’m not sure how much learning actually happens in a school setting, but it certainly can hook up brain cells for inspiration later. A long time ago, in a neighborhood far, far away, I had a ninth-grade homework assignment to write a short poem. I was a good student, but I had a difficult time grasping what to do. We had no guidelines, no formula. That night I sat out on our front steps and, watching the stars plink open, I realized that some things just happen – that I needed to make a poem “just happen.” However that came about, it changed my life.
WHAT ARE BOOKS FOR?
A book, of course, is not just glue and paper, thread and spurts of ink. Whatever its form these days, a book is a world you can hold in your hands (or in some cases your eyes or ears or fingertips) and savor. You can stop it at any point and ponder what’s going to happen or why the author chose to feature or omit something. You can go back and reread to see if you truly agree. A book differs from a tweet or text message – or even from a chapter or poem within itself – because it is a whole, and it demands concentration and willingness to enter that world and follow the trail. (A book is a poem on a larger scale.) And entering that world is like taking a vacation (relaxing or exhilarating, preposterous, perplexing, or heartfelt), un-shouldering the burden of daily woes. We come out of the experience a more complete human being, sometimes fired up to make a change. We gravitate toward some authors and bounce away from others, but when we find a book that speaks directly to us, it is a treasure.
WHY DO YOU THINK WHAT YOU DO MATTERS?
Well, in this age of blatant violence and economic disparity, rising insensitivity, insecurity, global unbalance, etc., I try to focus on the redeeming qualities exchanged between and among people and wilderness. The humanity we can’t risk losing. The awe of nature. Perhaps the reasons why we’re here…
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
Blatant violence, disparity, insensitivity, insecurity, loneliness, loss, the usual suspects – as well as overwhelming decency, sincerity, beauty, humanity. The radical fringes of everyday life, I suppose. Oh, and chopping onions…
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Seeing events or objects out of their natural habitat or oddly juxtaposed or from a bizarre perspective (physically, mentally, almost magically) sometimes sets me off. When I started college, I brought with me a part of my dad’s humor I’d always enjoyed – that of sensing an incongruity and asking someone about it in a dim-witted, casual way so they’d realize it too and laugh. But after some long, awkward silences to this ice-breaking technique, I stifled it before getting labeled retarded.
I also laugh at long-lost, unexpected occurrences which pop up at just the right time. And the antics of children or animals. (I have actually seen deer and antelope play!) I sometimes laugh at unintentionally meaningful bad grammar or mixed metaphors. I like puns, but not slapstick or hurtful humor. I smile at millions of people and situations. Smiling is the radiance of humankind.
IF YOU COULD TRAVEL TO THE PAST IN A TIME MACHINE, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE 6-YEAR OLD YOU?
You will cry and laugh, and it’s all part of the wonder of life. You will learn who you are apart from family, meet new people, stand on your own, choose what you believe. Keep swinging on that old board-and-rope swing, breathing in the new-mown lawn and the stretch of blue above the branches. And, please, in your spare time, start keeping a journal of your hopes and experiences so that when you’re lots older you can remember vividly and cry or laugh with them again.
ARE YOU MAKING SOME INFLUENCES ON THE WORLD OR CONSTANTLY BEING INFLUENCED BY THE WORLD?
I don’t see how anyone can do either of these without the other. In my small way, I write influenced by my world and then send out my poems or read them publicly, hoping that others become influenced by what I’m trying to convey. Maybe the following succession of ripples can explain.
As a result of saying yes to serving on the Wyoming Writers board, I was asked by the state department of education to put together a reading in my community (at the Central Wyoming College Sinks Canyon Center on the solstice eve), for teachers of writing, and then to coordinate several other such summer happenings around the state. There was overriding positive response from the teachers and the writers.
Bolstered by that experience, I answered a newspaper request for a library program on women-in-the-arts by asking if they meant to include writing. Turned out I was the interlude for outstanding musical and artistic displays. A newspaper writer was in the audience, liked what I read, and asked to do an interview.
The interview appeared on the front page (below the fold). I became bold enough to organize a “One County/Many Voices” series of events during National Poetry Month. And, as a result of one of the readings, we have now formed a long-needed local writing group. That group is feeling empowered and is empowering others. Wave after wave…
WHO DO YOU ADMIRE AND WHY?
I admire my husband, lots of friends and fellow poets, and many people I know only slightly. But, for a well-known person – Naomi Shihab Nye. I admire her steadfast trust in humanity, her simple but extraordinary poems, her courage to speak out in the name of peace between cultures, and her patient and kindhearted acceptance of the thousands of people she meets in her travels.
If I were to list all the people I admire, your blog would overflow…
Dan O’Brien Editor, Empirical Author: of The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, Cerulean Dreams, and The Journey