Today I’d like to welcome Kim Baker as my guest. She’s a poet and playwright, and has her first published book of poetry coming out this spring!
She currently has a poem about Winter featured in the Winter 2013 Issue of CapeWomenOnline magazine.
Give us a brief bio, Kim, and tell us what kind of things you like to read and write.
I’m a Jersey girl transplant to Rhode Island when I was 19 years old. This fact makes for an interesting accent, to say the least. I spent most of my adult life working two or three jobs at a time to stay solvent while also trying to get an education. And at 50 years old, my birthday gift to myself was to try writing poetry.
I have always wanted to be a writer, but never really considered myself one despite the fact that I have been a writing professor and writing coach for 23 years. Weird but true. Teaching writing has been so fulfilling for me. And I always stuck one toe into the pond of writing. But I never really dove in.
So I figure 50 is the moment you have to carpe art in whatever creative area you are drawn to most. Time is beginning to run out, and you can now withstand the inevitable rejection that comes with writing: your own and the world’s as you send out work for publication consideration.
I have been ridiculously blessed with many individual publications online and in print in the last six years. And my first book of poetry comes out in March. Awe-inspiring and humbling. A truly life-altering and magical moment.
I love reading. Period. Including, but not limited to cereal boxes, magazines, bulletin boards. And novels of exquisite language, not just story. Poetry for sure. Nikky Finney blew my socks off with her poetic acceptance speech last year for the National Book Award. To be awed that way in life is such a gift. How often does that happen? Thank you Nikky!
What's your favorite part of being a writer and poet?
When people come up to me and say thank you, you said just what I was feeling or I could so relate to that pain/joy/silliness/grief, I realize that writing is a gift to be shared. It is truly like breathing for me, as corny and cliché as that sounds, but what a blessing to be able to share something with others that I love doing and that moves readers, validates them, eases their grief and burdens in life, lightens them. Maybe even inspires them to write, paint, dance.
I write to create art, not to move anyone. But if my art also moves the reader, I have begun a conversation that I hope will just keep going on and on. And my favorite part about being a poet is playing with language and then reading it aloud at poetry readings. I want you to be soooo glad you came, want you to feel my passion for what I am reading and make it your own. Or not. Taste is taste. Can’t force the feeling if it doesn’t move you.
What’s your approach to writing?
My approach to writing is to just write. I don’t have a set schedule. I don’t have set things I write. A dear friend of mine was leading a poetry workshop five years ago. And she was beginning to write short plays, encouraging all of us in the workshop to think about doing that too.
I was terrified.
I was terrified to write something I had no idea how to write. But my friend sent me some resources and a few of her plays as a guide, and she said, “Just jump in and try.”
So I did. And I love writing short plays now. I don’t have too many. But three of them have been stage-read in a short play festival in New Bedford over the last four years. If I had never tried, and believe me the terror and agony of revision work is daunting, I would never have had the joy of seeing my work on stage.
My approach to writing is to say yes. Write. Stretch yourself for yourself. See what you are capable of and how your heart soars and sinks. You will learn a lot about yourself as a human.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Oh, an actress, for sure. I don’t act. But I adore the theater and love watching good acting. So fabulous to see a human become someone else, become a different part of herself. And then touch something in the audience. So I bring that bit of the hambone wannabee to my poetry readings.
If you could invite any three poets to dinner, who would be on the guest list and why?
Oh, Nikky Finney, for sure. She writes it real and sensual and deep into the bones. And her voice is magic.
Mary Oliver. Oh, I would cook for weeks to feed Mary Oliver her favorite foods. I know so many people love Mary Oliver’s work. And of course they do. It is heart breaking and heart swelling, like the natural world she writes about, like life. Mary Oliver makes us long to be outdoors, to play, to learn, to heal, to witness.
And Eamon Grennon, whose words are like a symphony. The music in his poetry makes me weep and glad I am alive on the planet to experience it.
Tell us about your new book, UNDER THE INFLUENCE.
The story about UNDER THE INFLUENCE is wonderful. I entered a contest at Finishing Line Press with my manuscript, but did not win. So I had my momentary disappointment, then dutifully wrote NO in the response space on my very carefully constructed spreadsheet of submissions and forgot about it for a while.
Eighteen months later, I received an email that Finishing Line Press wanted to publish the manuscript. I was at work at the time. I felt myself melting into the carpet, so I got up silently screaming, closed my office door, and had a major meltdown. It was exquisite.
The book contains poems mostly about paintings and some poems in the style of other poems, hence the title. I specialize in writing poems about art, called ekphrasis. I have a number of poems in the book about paintings by Cape Cod artists. In fact, the cover of the book is a painting by Mary Moquin, and I have a poem written to this painting in the book.
I was at work on a Friday, and I felt this insatiable need to go to the Cotuit Art Center, to which I had never been. I was able to leave early enough and arrive at Cotuit before it closed. Mary had a one-woman show and was inside painting alone in front of her work. I went in, and when I walked in front of the Year of the Crow, I sat instantly on the floor of the gallery and started writing. Mary, whom I did not know at the time, finally came over and said, a penny for your thoughts. I explained what I was doing, and I told her if I liked how the poem turned out, I would email it to her. The rest is history. Mary is a magical artist and person.
My poems are very musical. I like lush. And I revise until my brain bleeds. So these poems are very dear to me because I have worked on them so much. If you like art, you will enjoy joining the conversation by reading the poems and then maybe even viewing the art that inspired them and having your own reaction.
Where can readers find your books and where can you be found on the web?
My book is at Finishing Line Press, a small, award-winning press.
And I have started a website at: http://www.kimbakerpoet.weebly.com/ You’ll find information about the book, testimonials about the book, info about me, and samples of poems from the book. Soon, I’ll have reading dates there also.
Thanks for visiting today, Kim, and sharing with us!
Thank you so much, Katie, for the opportunity to share some of my life story and tell you about my book.
What I realize by writing all this down is how incredibly blessed I am in life, which includes embracing and being embraced by such a talented and loving community of writers, such as you. Never give up your dreams. If you haven’t achieved them yet, you are simply still in rehearsal. The show WILL come to town starring you if you keep believing. Carpe art!