Book Name and Description: Baltimore Girls (2017)
The Glamorganshire Bible (forthcoming 2018) poetry collection with a focus on my maternal grandmother, and my mother’s family in Cumberland Maryland and Baltimore from the late 19th century through the 1950’s.
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What gave you the idea for Baltimore Girls?
About six years ago, I joined several poetry workshops at the Boston Public Library, with poet Sam Cornish, then poet laureate of the City of Boston. Some of the prompts Sam gave us inspired me to write about my family. Sam entered one of my family poems in a juried competition, and my work was selected for an exhibit at Boston City Hall. Sam encouraged me to begin sending out my work, and I was astonished at the result—within three years I had three dozen poems accepted for publication, and had won two poetry prizes.
What got you into writing in this genre?
The short answer is that two of my high school teachers, Sister Augusta Reilly, RSM and Sister Carol Wheeler, RSM, inspired me. They required me to write poetry as part of a Creative English class in my senior year of high school. I wrote in college and into my twenties, and published a few poems. But it was only after my children were grown and on their own that I wandered back into writing.
Tell us about your past books and stories?
In the beginning of my late-in-life writing career, which began about five years ago, I wrote mostly about the deep past. Lately I have situated my work more in the present, often with poems about nature or people I observe in the moment.
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?
I try to write a poem a day, as my best poet-friend Heather Bryant does, but I rarely meet that challenge. I am a teacher, and during the school year, there is so little time, so I don’t write each morning, as I do in summer and on semester breaks. My goal is to write a poem a week. If I can do that, and if I can revise until I’m satisfied with the poem, I feel I am being as productive as I can be.
Biggest influences range from the poets I studied in school—Donne, Yeats, Plath, Lowell, Sexton, William Carlos Williams, Spender, Auden, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, —to contemporary poets, both obscure and famous. My current favorites are Alice Notley, Louise Gluck, and Frank Bidart.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
In my twenties, I was so self-focused and the poetry was hard for almost anyone else to relate to. Now I think—I hope— that my work has a broader appeal—across genders, ages, countries.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
That room of one’s own to retreat to, as Virginia Woolf said. Some notebooks. A few first readers who will give honest feedback on early drafts. A day job, to pay for food, shelter—and those reading fees. A small, faithful audience of readers who will buy your books and show up for your readings. Venues for reading one’s work—libraries, book clubs, coffee shops that hold poetry readings, community centers, poetry festivals.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
You have to believe in your work. Once you’ve revised and revised and know it’s as done as it will ever be, send it out. If it’s rejected by a publication, send it out again. And again. If you receive feedback from an editor, take it to heart, see if more revising might be in order. Eventually, it will find a home.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Poets and Writers, Facebook groups listing submissions opportunities, writers groups, workshops, libraries, open mics, suggestions from fellow poets.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Right now, I’m most proud of the first section of my forthcoming collection, The Glamorganshire Bible, the poems that focus on my grandmother and her Welsh forebears.
For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
For fiction, “Tony Bennett, Aldous Huxley, and Eddie,” my short story, published in Connections Literary Magazine. I think I capture what it was like for people in their late teens just as the late ‘Sixties were blowing the doors off traditional sexual mores.
For poetry, Baltimore Girls.
What are you doing next?
I’m working on a set of poems about the summer and the winter solstices and the way in which gardens reflect these points in the calendar year. I’m especially interested in light and darkness and their effect on human emotions.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Keep writing. Send out your work. Read it aloud in any venue that will have you. Ask for feedback. Enjoy participating that great body of human effort we call poetry.
Lynne Viti is a senior lecturer in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her first chapbook, Baltimore Girls, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. Her second, The Glamorganshire Bible, will be released in early 2018. Her writing has appeared most recently in The Maynard, I Come from the World, The Thing Itself, Stillwater Review, Bear Review, In-Flight Magazine, Tin Lunchbox, Lost Sparrow, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She was awarded Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Competition and the 2017 Concrete Wolf Louis Chapbook competition, and was named a finalist in the 2016 Grey Borders Wanted Works Poetry Chapbook Contest. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com.
Baltimore Girls on Amazon