Her poem "For a Small Girl Staring" appears in InkSpotter Publishing's upcoming breast-themed anthology Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra.
CP: My mother wrote down my stories [when I was] a child and my father told me stories, so I was impressed with the power of words early on. My mother wrote letters to the editor protesting nuclear war, so that was another influence about speaking up in writing for a cause.
IS: What is the primary source of inspiration for you?
CP: My intersection as a human with the natural world, especially as it is destroyed and diminished.
“Learning to love the sewer stench” is how I put it in a poem.
CP: When I was writing several books of prose -– only published in bits and pieces -- I kept a schedule. I write in a journal almost daily. All work begins in that fermented compost. I am reluctant to enter into any lengthy prose effort unless I am certain of publication. I can't know when something might work into a poem, so I approach journaling with a sense of wonder as often as possible.
CP: The journal first and then, depending on if anything is ripe or ready for the next step, I begin a series of rough drafts, initially in the journal then eventually into the computer. Sometimes work begins in a dream but my health has impacted REM sleep, to my sorrow.
CP: Just about everything possible over the decades –- readings, conferences, interviews on TV, radio, and in print. News articles featuring me and my efforts, particularly when I was working as a North Carolina Visiting Artist and in South Carolina as a poet-in-the-schools. But I have always known that good press is important. Unfortunately, I wanted to be a journalist at a time when women only covered the society page.
I send out promos now to an e-mail list and to my Facebook friends. I will turn 65 in mid-October. I have been writing almost 60 years. When my chapbook Notes from the Red Zone (originally published by Seal Press in 1983 as a part of their anti-nuclear series) was selected by Ron Mohring of Seven Kitchens Press as the inaugural winner of the Rebound Award in 2008 and published in 2009, it received scant reviews. That's always been a problem for my writing. I haven't ever really had any mentors in high places. Or they've only been there briefly.
My journals and all my published works are available at the University of Michigan, Bentley Collection in Ann Arbor, Michigan and online.
CP: "Die" immediately came to mind as I read this question, though I don't have any plans, but I have been told I am the kind of poet for the ages discovered and appreciated more after I die. (Smile.) I have unpublished work, poetry and prose, I would really like to see in print. There is a Polish greeting for a birthday celebrant, Sto lat, a wish for him or her to live to be a hundred. That's certainly a goal.
CP: My voice was there early on, already evident in high school. I won National Scholastic honorable mentions for my poetry and I was feature editor of my high school paper as well. I graduated in 1964 from Cass Technical High School in Detroit. I had a public education impossible to attain now. I went silent running while getting my BS degree, though.
CP: Somehow I have managed to keep my poetry in particular out there in the public eye against all the odds.
And my work as a writer will be there for researchers if there are any when I am gone.
IS: What's the most recent book you read?
CP: Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
CP: Edwidge Danticat, Stephen Vincent Benet, W.B. Yeats, Margaret Atwood (I studied with her two summers in the early 80s at Centrum in Washington state), Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, Wislawa Szymborska, Blaga Dimitrova, May Sarton, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Riche, Marge Piercy, and several others over the decades.
Sophocles is at the top of any list of my favorite writers. On certain days I maintain that no other books needed writing after Antigone, but then I calm down.
IS: What's your best piece of advice for novice writers?
CP: Spend your time wisely. Read omnivorously. Avoid MFA programs. Don't expect everything to land in your lap at once. Be prepared when it doesn't to earn your living in other ways. Don't fall into the trap of drinking too much. Your muse doesn't need it.
CP: The old adage: When there's time, there's no money, when there's money, there's no time, a poet's lament.
And Yeats' statement: In dreams begin responsibility.