Be mindful of your surroundings, have some private time to reflect.
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 Susan J. Farese.
Susan J. Farese, MSN, RN, (Veteran), a native of NJ, is owner/president of SJF Communications, San Diego, CA. Ms. Farese has diversified experience in health care/communications, including military and civilian nursing practice, management, education/training, research, and consulting. SJF Communications provides Public Relations, Marketing, Social Media, Websites, Writing, Filmmaking, Public Speaking, Mentoring and Photography. Clients include theatres, musicians, filmmakers, authors, and businesses. Susan is the author of the book “Poetic Expressions in Nursing…Sharing the Caring” (1993 and 2021), currently teaches ‘Capturing Your Creativity with Haiku’ workshops and has written poetry and articles on a variety of topics. She is on the advisory board of San Diego Film Week, and is a member of SAG-AFTRA, American Legion Post 43 (Hollywood), Veterans in Media & Entertainment, San Diego Writers Ink, the Southern California Writers Association, the Army Nurse Corps Association and the San Diego Press Club. Website: https://sjfcommunications.com. Follow on Facebook: @SJFCommunications; Twitter and Instagram @sjfcommo.
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?
My journey with poetry has been cathartic, eye-opening, and enriching. It happened by accident in March 1991, when I saw the movie Awakenings. One of the female characters, Lucy (who caught the red ball from her wheelchair) vividly resembled my maternal grandmother, Ann, who was an unfortunate victim of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease during her 50’s. Grandma Ann died, institutionalized, at age 60 in 1971, a time when support groups and resources were nil regarding this devastating illness.
Ann was very dear and special to me during my early childhood. Then from age 8–14, I witnessed the profound grief of gradually losing someone significant, with so much spirit and zest, before my eyes, before her time. It was confusing and frightening to see her regress to a vegetative, mute state. I know I was called to the nursing profession because of this early loss experience.
I repressed many of the deeply rooted feelings about Ann for nearly twenty years, until 1991, the night I saw Awakenings. Then, one evening that same week, my husband was out of town, and I couldn’t fall asleep. I tried taking a bath, having a glass of wine, to no avail. So, I grabbed a journal that hubby gave me as a holiday gift. I sat on the couch, and a three-page poem Ann’s Zest Ends evolved which cascaded from the heart. I cried I laughed, I remembered times with Ann from childhood to twenty years later after she passed away.
When I called my mother and read the poem to her, she as well shared many tears of relief and asked me to share Ann’s Zest Ends with as many people as possible, because it so closely reflected what our family experienced with Ann’s gradual loss. That was all I needed!
I began my crusade and presented the poem to several Alzheimer’s support groups, nursing organizations and other community and professional groups. Ann’s spirit and zest returned each time. Tears and tissue boxes appeared out of nowhere. I knew then that this message connected with so many people and related to them in their own way. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
This tremendous response gave me the confidence to continue writing poetry. In addition, I have provided many seminars and continuing education classes for nurses as well as the general public regarding poetry. My book Poetic Expressions in Nursing: Sharing the Caring (published in 1993 and 2nd edition in 2021) is the culmination of my efforts, as well as being published in anthologies, print media and online publications. I also teach in-person and virtual Haiku workshops.
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 recently published the 2nd edition of my book Poetic Expressions in Nursing: Sharing the Caring in response to nurses and others dealing with the heightened stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, etc. as a result of caring for others (and themselves) during the pandemic. I am a nurse advocate. Also, for the past few years, I have been teaching Capturing Your Creativity with Haiku Workshops in person and virtually online.
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?
My definition of poetry: Poetry is a cathartic, therapeutic method of communicating (to ourselves and/or others) our thoughts, stressors, values, purpose, observations, feelings (and more)!
What can writing poetry teach us about ourselves?
Writing poetry can teach us that our innermost thoughts can be examined, validated, expressed and communicated so that we and others can heal.
Who are your favorite poets?
Bruce Springsteen, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lao Tse, Issa, Basho, Amanda Gorman, Gill Sotu.
Is it their style, the content, or something else that resonates with you?
All of the above for each of them!
If you could ask your favorite poet a question, what would it be? I’d ask Amanda Gorman several questions: 1. What was it like up there on the inauguration stage? 2. Did you sleep the evening before? 3. Have you relaxed since the inauguration with the media spotlight and attention on you?? Do you believe the power that your poetry has had on the world?
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?
As mentioned earlier in this interview, My poem Ann’s Zest Ends was extremely transformational, since it helped me to deal with my Grandmother’s premature death, 20 years after she passed.
Today’s world needs so much healing. Can you help articulate how poetry can help us heal?
Poetry can be therapeutic and cathartic. The pandemic has been extremely stressful to many people. Poetry is a creative art that can open up the dam of thoughts, feelings, stressors etc.
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?
I am a freestyle poet that writes freeform rather than literary poetry. I write ‘from the heart’. I also enjoy writing and teaching Haiku.
Here are passages from two of my poems:
1.) Excerpt from the poem Intuition in my book Poetic Expressions in Nursing: Sharing the Caring:
It’s that cozy yet dangerous gut feeling
That appears every now and then-
You cannot explain this phenomenon
You just know what will happen…and when!
It may be a look in a person’s eye
(Or a sense of impending doom)
Predicting endless possibilities
It’s the aura inside a room
2.) Excerpt from the poem Sharing the Caring in my book Poetic Expressions in Nursing: Sharing the Caring:
Brave and famous poets we need not be
But writing from our heart, that sets us free
Through poems, we tell our stories
Share pain, grief, caring, glories
Regardless of our nursing specialty.
No need to build walls to hide
The memories we’ve buried deep inside
It’s good to let it go, allowing words to flow
Stand back and let the power be your guide…
What do you hope to achieve with your poetry?
My aim is to help others by introducing others to poetry and sharing my poetry with my book, blog posts, media interviews (print, television, radio/podcasts), etc., and continue to teach workshops, especially Haiku. Reach as many people as possible to connect with them and introduce them to the power of poetry.
In your opinion and from your experience, what are 3 things everyone can learn from poetry?
- That poetry can heal
- Poetry can be a bridge to opposite points of view.
- Poetry is pure.
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.
- Be mindful of your surroundings, have some private time to reflect.
- Think about what is on your mind, what stresses you out, what conflicts you’re having, what your values are. Center yourself, then write a poem.
- Get out in nature, free of distractions!
- Share your poetry for validation, to hear it read by others or just keep it to yourself!
- Follow poets on social media, connect with and/or collaborate with them.
If you were to encourage others to write poetry, what would you tell them?
Again, I’d tell them to go out in nature. Take a few photos of what you see. Grasp it. Then, use your senses to write a poem.
How would you finish these three sentences:
Poetry teaches…insight, awareness, clarification, conflict examination and potentially resolution
Poetry heals by…allowing us to ventilate on paper (or our digital device)!
To be a poet, you need to…trust your intuition and listen to your inside voice
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 🙂
Yes, I have a few: Arianna Huffington, Bruce Springsteen, Lin-Manuel Miranda. They all intrigue me for different reasons.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My book (paperback, ebook and audiobook versions): Poetic Expressions in Nursing: Sharing the Caring. Amazon Links: https://www.amzn.com/dp/173697761X or Other links at: https://books2read.com/poeticexpressionsinnursing
My website: https://sjfcommunications.com
My Linktree with additional social media and other links: https://linktree.com/Sjfcommo
Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success.