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The Poetry Lady
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Questions & Answers
with The Poetry Lady
(Denise Rodgers)

Q. When did you first start writing poems?
A. The first poem I remember writing was when I was standing underneath the oversized elm tree on the front lawn of my northwest Detroit family bungalow when I was seven years old. A warm summer breeze washed over my arms and the tree branches overhead were swaying along with the summer music. A couplet (two-line poem) sprang into my head.

“Swing high, the branches in the trees. Swing high, go along with the breeze.”

It came in the form of a little song that I’ve been singing in my head for years. I didn’t write it down until years later. It is hardly a piece of great literary merit, but it has been with me for life.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. Ideas are everywhere, if you are in the right mood to tap into them. Every time something funny happens, like your brother dropping his toothbrush in the toilet, there is the idea for a poem. Every time something seems offbeat or bizarre, like your teacher showing up for class one day wearing a clown suit, or the principal riding a scooter down the hall, there’s a poem in the making. Sometimes my poems start with ideas like this, and other times words present themselves in my mind when I least expect it. I quickly write it down and work on it later when I have time to write. Sometimes I sit and actively think of funny words and images and make a list that may eventually bring a poem to life.

Q. Why do you write poems?
A. The honest answer is that I simply love writing poetry. I am paid well to write ads and articles, but I continue to write poems because they are so much fun. I like the way my mind works when I am idea-collecting for my poetry. And it is especially fun to have a poem that I’ve already written. They are small and portable, and you can keep them forever.

Q. How many poems have you written?
A. There are probably hundreds of them. I’ve been actively writing poems, off and on, since I was 14 years old. Many of them aren’t much good, but I think that it is important to let yourself write a whole lot of poetry (or any other kind of writing) before you start to pick any out for publication.

Q. Do you write anything beside poetry?
A. Yes. I have been writing and producing newsletters and newspaper ads for small retailers for over 10 years, as well as writing articles for retail business journals.

Q. How can I get my poetry published?
A. Before you think of publishing, first work on writing lots and lots of poems. Keep a journal and try to write every day. Go to the library and take out poetry books and read them. Choose the poems that you like and try to figure out what it is that you like about them. Try to write poems that are like the poems you enjoy. Don’t worry about copying. This is a learning technique. The more you keep writing, the more your poems will be your own. To find places to send your poetry, go to the library or and look for "Market Guide for Young Writers: Where and How to Sell What You Write," by Kathy Henderson.

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