Explore explore explore — seriously go out and explore. Try new places, new things, take walks, look at dirt, use a random object and write a poem about it! I have written about bees, a vacuum cleaner, chocolate, an umbrella. Some of these were my favorite poems because they are so different and unique.
Poetry is growing in popularity and millions of people spanning the globe have a renewed passion for embracing the creativity, beauty, and art of poetry. Poetry has the power to heal and we make sense of the world through the human expression of writing and reading. Are you wondering: What does it take to become a successful poet? What is the best medium and venue to release your poetry? What are some techniques to improve or sharpen your skills? In this interview series about how to write powerful and evocative poetry, we are interviewing people who have a love for poetry and want to share their insights, and we will speak with emerging poets who want to learn more about poetry either to improve their own skills or learn how to read and interpret better. Here, we will also meet rising and successful poets who want to share their work or broaden their audience, as well as poetry and literature instructors.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Baker.
Amanda believes that we are more authentic as our child-like self than we are as an adult. We are more likely to share our truth and live our truth as children, but who says we have to stop. Amanda is a mental health therapist, 200-hr yoga instructor, and poet from Baltimore, MD. She is a mother of her three-year-old son, Dylan, and enjoys time in nature. Amanda has self-published a poetry collection that includes written work from her early teens and into her thirties. You may find her book, ASK: A Collection of Poetry, Lyrics, and Words on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what first drew you to poetry?
I started writing as early as six/seven years old. I was not necessarily writing poetry, I was creating song lyrics. I had melodies in my head. At the time I thought everyone had melodies in their head. I would put words together and give them a tune. I did this all the time. I would use my keyboard and play a random pre-recorded beat and just sing. I was not a good singer but I loved to come up with songs. I recorded multiple cassettes with friends but also often by myself. One of my first recorded cassettes was called “School Girl.” I definitely wrote more “songs” than necessarily poems, however since I didn’t know how to play any instrument, my words were written in journals and could be easily mistaken for a poem. I continued to fill journals through my teen years.
Can you tell us a bit about the interesting or exciting projects you are working on or wish to create? What are your goals for these projects?
I have a few poems that are considered riddle poems, essentially they are poems about something without saying what it is about. I have thought about making a whole book of them, however I only have about 5–6 riddle poems. I wouldn’t say it’s a goal of mine to publish them but I do think they are fun. I’m in the process of publishing a second poetry collection. This book is called “What is Another Word for Intimacy?”
Wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. What is your definition of poetry? Can you please share with us what poetry means to you?
To me, poetry is without a doubt an art. There is no right or wrong to poetry. I love it because it is not really something that can be competitive. Yes, there are contests and some people do “win” over others but it is not about that to me. Poetry is a description. It is an emotion. It is a visual that you create with words and it is unique to the poet as well as to the reader(s). How one person interprets a poem may be very different from the next person who comes to read it. Each poem is beautiful.
What can writing poetry teach us about ourselves?
Poetry can teach you some of the innermost darkest deepest secrets. Poetry can also teach you some of the richest, gorgeous and spectacular details if you are willing to look. Poetry is not just words, it is every single sense wrapped into one; our sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Poetry is capable… if willing to take it into that realm.
Who are your favorite poets? Is it their style, the content or something else that resonates with you?
This is difficult since I don’t really have a favorite poet. I like Maggie Smith and Robert M. Drake who are more contemporary American poets. I also am a big fan of song lyrics, thus I love Conor Oberst. I was a huge fan of Shel Silverstein as a child. For me it is their creativity and depth of their words. I like poems that have a lot of feeling to them.
If you could ask your favourite poet a question, what would it be?
I think I would like to know what got them started with poetry. For me poetry came so naturally which is what I love about being connected with something; it happens almost instantaneously. We cannot necessarily teach a connection; yes it is beneficial to strengthen skills and learn, yet when it comes to something that you love or that you feel extremely connected to, it is not a chore, it is a passion. I hope that poetry is their passion.
Poetry can be transformational. Is there a particular poem that spoke to you and changed your life or altered a perspective you held in some way? Can you share the story?
The poem The Voice by Shel Silverstein
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you — just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”
I do not think this poem fully resonated with me until years and years later, but this simple poem is so true for me now…..just listen to the voice that speaks inside.
Today’s world needs so much healing. Can you help articulate how poetry can help us heal?
Poetry is cathartic. We can accomplish so much through expression. We all need to express and sometimes expressing ourselves is hard. Poetry is a way to express without necessarily having to be intimidating. We can be vulnerable without having to directly say the exact words. Poets found other ways to say them or have opportunities to read them. There is someone out there who feels similarly to you and that is priceless, to not be alone. You are not alone.
I thought I was alone for a long time. I stopped writing between ages 18–30. Overall that is almost 15 years of my life that I stopped writing; a huge piece of myself was missing. It was not until I found social media as a way to share my poetry that I realized how many other thousands of people there are with similar emotions. We are all different but we also share a common thread. It’s amazing and I would not change it for the world.
We’d like to learn more about your poetry and writing. How would you describe yourself as a poet? Can you please share a specific passage that you think exemplifies your style or main message?
As noted I often write with a melody or cadence. Here is one called “Leave me in my pocket”
It was a pocket / a place for small candy / a wallet / keys to places I never got to know / new candy I’ll never get to taste / even though you invited me in / the pocket at that time was filled with other things / a spec of dust / hot air / W O R D S / T I C K I N G / S T I L L N E S S / I watched it / I replayed it / R E W I N D / yet it’s different / once I left the pocket / returned to the ground / felt the dirt in my toes / new words came / we unfroze / and the message changed / like all that existed in the pocket was only welcome in the pocket / I know you turned yours inside out / and I know you can’t get it back either / I never put anything in my pockets / I don’t invite anyone in / because I don’t want to turn mine inside out / looking for something that no one believes to exist.
Okay so maybe I invite you in my pocket……because in a few hours I realized that it’s not openness or willingness that’s so painful / it’s the rejection / it’s not love that is crushing / it’s the act of letting go / it’s the past burns / razor cuts on skins / watching them walk / hearing a goodbye / that leave us tingling in our psychic powers to not believe in our ability to act lovingly / we don’t love / we act lovingly / we receive loving acts / and trust in the intensity / in the affection / to be accepted / and trust in our own greatness / so I invite you in my pocket / because in there: is all the love / which is worth having / even if L E F T.
What do you hope to achieve with your poetry?
I want people to continue to feel. It is so easy to get stuck in auto-pilot of the hustle and bustle of life that we often forget to stop and look around; we often forget to check in with ourselves or if we do we are already stressed, overreacting, angry, etc. that we sometimes ignore the true emotions underneath. Many also struggle with saying how they truly feel. I think poetry can allow you to get to the roots. It’s not just about me sharing my feelings, it’s creating a comfort so other people will share their truth too. We all have a story to tell and your story is important.
In your opinion and from your experience, what are 3 things everyone can learn from poetry?
1. Most important to me — creative expression. Poetry can teach you to use your imagination. Our imagination/creativity is essentially the same thing as our intuition. How inspiring is it to be using your intuition all the time.
2. It can teach you to slow down and enjoy the finer details in life; to take a look at nature or pay attention to your surroundings, your emotions, your thoughts. It is almost meditative
3. Lastly, you may learn new words, formats, structures. There are so many different kinds of poems that if you take the time to read others and play around with style you can learn and grow in your talent and ability.
Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things a poet needs to know to create beautiful and evocative poetry?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.
1. Explore explore explore — seriously go out and explore. Try new places, new things, take walks, look at dirt, use a random object and write a poem about it! I have written about bees, a vacuum cleaner, chocolate, an umbrella. Some of these were my favorite poems because they are so different and unique.
2. Trust yourself — when in doubt do it anyway! There is nothing wrong in poetry and someone will most likely like it and if not then you could learn from it. Failure is a part of life and writing crappy poems is okay. They are your words and your heart so even if it is not the best, it is true to you. Real and true are way more important (at least to me) than the most excellent poem ever….especially if it is not a true/from the heart poem.
3. Join a community of other writers and poets. The support from others is motivating and also provides opportunities for feedback. If able, take a poetry class or workshop. I have done a few workshops myself and find them inspiring, fun, and worthwhile. I am less experienced with sharing my poetry aloud so going out of my comfort zone and attempting some spoken word poetry has been exhilarating.
4. Try different styles, formats, types of poems. There is so much variety in the poetry community from a haiku to a sonnet to prose. Widen your playing field and enjoy the layers of poetry. Use adjectives, metaphors, personification, and more. Find your uniqueness.
5. Have fun — no matter what. It is not uncommon to get caught up in the media aspect of sharing poetry. I’ll be honest that at times I notice myself paying more attention to the number of likes or shares than actually the words on the page. In our technology driven world we need to come back to the heart and soul of poetry or any art that is being shared. Please remember that it is not about the number of followers you have but about the art that you are creating. The words, feelings, images, and story that is being depicted.
If you were to encourage others to write poetry, what would you tell them?
You are never too young or too old to start writing. Write in a notebook, in your notes app on your phone, on a napkin. Find aspects of your world that are worth writing down and share it. One day you may not be here but your essence remains. Allow your essence to live through your words. Allow other people to live through your words. Start with a sentence or prompt and go from there. Here I’ll start a prompt for you: “The rain will never ruin us”
How would you finish these three sentences:
Poetry teaches…how to connect with a part inside of you that you may not have even known is there. Poetry helps you get beyond the surface.
Poetry heals by… touching the soul in a way that is real, raw, and honest. Poetry lets you know that you are not alone.
To be a poet, you need to…see everything as poetry. Write, write, and write.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Entertainment , Business, VC funding, and Sports read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to have breakfast with Brene Brown. Her research and fascination with vulnerability, shame, and acting whole-heartedly is very inspiring to me. I would love to chat with her.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please connect with me on Instagram @amandabakerwrites and my website is www.amandabakerwrites.com
Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success.