CAS: It seems to be a compulsion really. Words, phrases, ideas come to me, seemingly at random, but they won’t let go ‘til I put them into a poem.
VAH: Why did you become a writer and when did you know or feel like you were a writer?
CAS: I hadn’t written in 25 years, but after my husband died, I began to find the poetry coming again. I decided it was time to find out whether I was really a poet or a dabbler. I first felt like a poet when a workshop leader wanted to steal one of my lines.
VAH: Ah, that sounds validating. “A poet or a dabbler.” A good question for introspection. Is there someone or something that influenced your development as a writer?
CAS: Reading other poets is a big influence. When I am not reading, I am usually also not writing. Taking workshops, trying new techniques I didn’t like at first because I didn’t understand the process. Mentors have played a big role too. They include Canadian poets Brent Robillard, (that first workshop leader), Bernice Lever, Harold Rhenisch, Barry Dempster, Roo Borson, John Barton, Phil Hall, Stuart Ross. Canadian-American poet James Arthur. Al Filreis, who teaches Modern & Contemporary American Poetry at UPenn via Coursera online and Robert Pinsky.
VAH: What do you remember about your first story or poem?
CAS: I actually have the first poem I wrote as a teenager in high school. It was written in March 1963, or so my file copy shows, has no title, and is a rhyming poem. I don’t remember whether it was written for class or just on a whim. But the second one seems to be a riff on The Daffodils by William Wordsworth.
VAH: And do you have a favorite piece you’ve written to date?
CAS: My favorite poem always seems to be among the most recent of my poems, although Jammin’ on the 16 is one I like because of its sound and the way it feels on the tongue. It’s an Ekphrastic poem, written to pair with a painting by Dina Karkar on The Light Ekphrastic, Nov. 2012:
Jammin’ on the 16
Fire foregrounds the hot yellow burn—
orange teases rouge, the blue rise
on red, these curves
letters shape, shift, notes lift—
a spider-weave ripple of sound riffles
ground-wave to octave
foreground to ground, form
re-form, each iteration:
music. the poem. the music.
Words stack, staccato: they wrap
rap, finger-snap, bebop, toe-tap tap tap
rebop, trombone, scatting a sax
A long hot lick—
the jazz. the jazz. fire-brick
– Carol A. Stephen
Carol A. Stephen is a Canadian poet, poetry selector for Bywords Journal and a member of the League of Canadian Poets. She’s served on boards of Canadian Authors Association, National Capital Region (CAA-NCR), Arts Carleton Place and Tree Reading Series Ottawa. Carol coordinated CAA’s poetry circle 2008-2013.
Her poetry has appeared in Bywords Quarterly Journal, Tree Press/phaphours press chapbooks and online at The Light Ekphrastic and Silver Birch Press. Chapbooks: Above the Hum of Yellow Jackets, Bondi Studios, 2011 and Architectural Variations, Quillfyre Publishing, 2012. Ink Dogs in my Shoe, Dec. 2014 from Nose In Book Publishing, Castlegar B.C.
Awards: 3rd Prize CAA 2012 National Capital Writing Contest for Walking in Thomson’s Red Sumac. Honourable Mentions: VERSeFest, Poetry for the End of the World, 2012, Arborealis 2012 and 2008 Ontario Poetry Society, Double Your Pleasure 2013 Ontario Poetry Society and CAA’s 2008 and 2011 National Capital Writing Contest.
Recent publication: In December, 2014 her third chapbook, Ink Dogs in my Shoes, was published by Nose In Book Publishing, Castlegar, B.C. This is a chapbook of poems all containing some element of three in them. Subjects range from garden to writing process to nonsense rhymes, and some explore conceptual poetry or experiment with wordplay.
Three by Five posts on days that end in threes.