Introducing Elise Skidmore

Elise SkidmoreI’ve known Elise for more years than I want to confess to. I’ve watched her incredible talent grow and mature over the years. It has been frustrating to see this talent mostly hidden away, so bringing this book into publication makes me blissfully happy. I’m so excited to share her talent with the rest of the world!

HA: Why did you decide to indie publish? Why now?

ES: I’ve been writing poetry for most of my life and even had a few poems published, but the truth is I hate the marketing side of the writing business so I haven’t pursued publication much. Over the past 15 years or so, I’ve been sharing my work with other writers and poets, mostly in private venues, and several of those colleagues have been pushing me to put together a chapter book of my poems. Other than random poems here and there, self-publishing is really the only venue for poets to put their work out there, and self-publishing in print doesn’t come cheap. It happened that a long-time friend, Lisa Norman, was starting Heart Ally Books and suggested we try to publish “Poems from the Edge of Spring” in Kindle format first, and depending on its success, we could print in hard copy later. With the recent increase in the popularity of digital books, publishing in digital formats seemed a good way to share the poetry without breaking the bank, so I decided to take a chance.

HA: Why not do it yourself?

ES: Partly because I’m lazy. (I mentioned I hate the marketing end of the business, didn’t I? And don’t we all try to avoid the things we hate?) But mostly because I’m what I like to call a “computer-duh”. I know how to use a computer, of course, and over the years I’ve become a bit less of a “duh”, but only about the things I actually use the computer for, like writing or surfing the net, and even then I probably take the long way around to accomplish things that others, more knowledgeable than me, can do more efficiently. Sort of like being able to drive a car, but other than checking that there’s gas in the tank, having no clue why it might not go when I step on the gas. The idea of trying to format a book for publication was way over my head, so I decided to trust the technical aspects to someone who knows what they’re doing.

HA: I know you write beautiful prose. What is it about poetry that draws and motivates you?

ES: Well, as I mentioned, I’ve been writing poetry for most of my life, much longer than I’ve been writing prose. I think it’s the idea that you can express so much in a few carefully chosen words. You don’t have the pressure to tell a story, though you can and often do, and yet if you do it well your reader will be able to relate it to their own experiences.

HA: Blueprint your work for me. What comes first, the rhythm or the verse?

ES: Most of my poems are free verse so I rarely think about rhythm in the sense of iambic pentameter and such unless I’m working on a poetry form that requires it. But I think all poetry has an internal rhythm to it, which is something that comes naturally to me and changes with each poem. Poems always begin in one of two ways for me: with a word or phrase that catches my attention, like “Mosaic of Joy” for example, or seeing something that sticks in my mind like a snapshot, the way the bird in “Avian Suicide” did. Once that spark has been ignited, it may smolder for a while until the poem is ready to be written (I usually jot down key words/phrases so not to forget them in the meantime.). Other times, the poem comes out in a single burst.

HA: Do you have a favorite poem in the collection? Can you tell us more about the story behind that poem?

ES: That’s a tough question. It’s like asking a mother to pick a favorite child—but they always want you to, don’t they? If forced to pick a favorite, I think I’d have to narrow it down to two that are closely related: “Counting” and “10:05pm”. The first was written three weeks after my father died, the other was written two years after. I was blessed with the best parents anyone could ask for and have written many poems over the years about both of them, but my father and I always had a special bond. My sister and I were by his side, holding his hands, when he passed. Letting him go was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. He was simply the best and will always be my hero.

HA: Oh, great. Make me pick. Well, since we share the experience of watching a parent take their last breath, I think I’ll pick “Counting” because that one has always touched my heart.

Counting

I can’t stop counting
the measure doesn’t matter
three weeks or
twenty-one days
it’s all the same
and time keeps ticking
backward

memories come uninvited
and stay for tea
while I recall in minute detail
the moments leading
to our last goodbye

tear-soaked whispers
of love and assurance
letting go when
all I really want
is to beg you to stay

inhaled breath
counting
long
seconds
until
your
final
exhalation

alone
I laid my head on your chest
knowing there were no heartbeats left
to count

I have done this before
days turn into weeks
weeks into months
months into years
always counting
backward
until one day
tears subside
and I begin to tally
the many joys
of having you in my life.

HA: Poetry, by nature, is vulnerability. Why expose yourself?

ES: It took a long time before I was willing to share my poetry with other than a trusted few, because poetry always feels more personal, even when it’s about nature or politics rather than love or family. With age comes wisdom (or so they say), and I think that we all have these thoughts and feelings, whether we let others see them or not. We may experience them differently, but we do all experience them. By putting the work out there, I’d like to think I’m giving a voice to all the others who don’t know how to express those thoughts and feelings, but can relate when they see them.

HA: What do you think of the experience so far? What were the hard/easy parts?

Would you do this again?

ES: The experience has been a very positive one and I would definitely do it again, as long as I had someone I trust to deal with the technical aspects of production. Lisa had a heck of a time trying to maintain the poetic form in a venue that changes as the reader changes font sizes, but she managed it somehow, so that was the easiest part for me. The hardest part was deciding which poems and photos to include in the book and how to make it cohesive. Once I stumbled on the idea of using March and April as the “edges of spring,” it all came together.

HA: What’s one rumor you’d love to see spread about you and/or your work?

ES: Let’s see… How about: Elise is a stunningly beautiful woman, both inside and out, with a great sense of humor. Her poetry is not only accessible to the masses, but is turning poetry haters into poetry lovers.

HA: Well, that wouldn’t be a rumor – that’s the truth!

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