Laurie Klein and I first met online after I’d been following her work in print for a number of years. We share a common decade and a love of poetry and song. I then discovered she was blogging and we’ve been corresponding ever since.
Laurie is the author of the prize-winning chapbook ‘Bodies of Water, Bodies of Flesh’ and the classic praise chorus ”I Love You, Lord.” Her poems and prose have appeared in many publications, including Ascent, The Southern Review, Atlanta Review, Terrain, and the Holman Personal Worship Bible. She is a recipient of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred.
Her most recent release in the Poemia Poetry Series from Cascade Books is “Where the Sky Opens.”
I reached out to Laurie for an online Interview and she graciously agreed. Below is our conversation. (For more poet interviews & book reviews here on the blog, click HERE.)
1) Tell me about your writing path–how did it lead you to where you are today?
Twenty years ago, sadness launched my writing path; death and depression arrived, pushing me on my journey. Losing my dad in 1996 propelled me into journaling, then poetry. There was lots of baggage to sort through. Literally everyone in my family died, except for my sister, who beat breast cancer, twice.
But here’s the godsend: Two friends with MFAs mentored me, in poetry and prose during that time. Eventually, we co-founded a print litmag called Rock & Sling: A Journal of Literature, Art and Faith and ran it against all odds for five years.
2) Have you had any other ‘careers’ other than writer? or perhaps some that dovetailed with that vocation?
I feel outrageously lucky in the work opportunities I’ve enjoyed. Former jobs fed my word banks, my ‘image archives.’
Teacher: I taught in preschools, then as a Theatre Arts adjunct at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA, never suspecting commonalities between these age groups.
Freelance Professional Storyteller: I performed in schools, churches, community centers, writer’s conferences, and retreats, in the States as well as Thailand, England, and Germany.
Program Director at Calvary Chapel: Remember Deborah of old, who had “a heart for the willing volunteers”? I loved directing and wrote drama sketches our creative team synced with thematic music and stage sets. Several full-length musicals followed.
Audiobook Narrator: I’ve narrated fifty or so books. When I undertook Theatre Arts study, I wanted the skills to play 100 characters. I never meant all at one time! Some novels call for that many voices. (TIP: novelists, reign in your cast if you want publication in this arena.)
Singer/songwriter and itinerant Worship Leader: My husband, Bill, and I shared this work for three decades. Four recording projects emerged from that wonderful season of life.
3) Why poetry? Why not prose? (or do you speak both?)
Both poetry and prose say Psssst!—from different rooms in my brain.
Prose: I enjoy personal narrative, blogging, and essay (even won the New Letters Dorothy Churchill Cappon Prize, for Creative Nonfiction). These days I find long literary essays overly strenuous and time-intensive, so a meditative piece flows more easily. I value the weekly rigor of blogging.
One finished novel keeps mum, in its lidded box. Hindsight revealed a stronger villain than heroine. But the box remains on the shelf behind me. Who knows . . .
Poetry: an ongoing experiment in song, magic, and muscle—this alchemical genre holds my heart. To regularly acquiesce poetry’s featherly touch amid its ruthless demands to drill down to the core, then enflesh the essence with just enough detail—this is living!
Composing a poem that evokes emotion, pondering, or memory in my reader means I’ve discovered something new, personally, then rendered it accessible to others.
4) How has your relationship with Jesus affected your writing? or vice-versa?
Home base, North Star, compass rose—the more I orbit Jesus, be it alighting or immersing, the more I glimpse God and my readers. Not to mention my hourly need for grace.
A wonder junkie, I’m endlessly curious about God’s natural world, and how it speaks to us of its Maker. My husband and I have a bucket list which includes seeing all the National Parks. Many of the poems in my new book spring from flora, fauna, and landscapes relished en route.
My mate’s a pioneer; I’m a settler. Being journey mates ramps up my prayer life! Jesus reliably inspires this mind, heart, and imagination at my desk, and in the wilderness.
5) Although you’ve been published in many places over the years, this is your first book of just your work. This accomplishment has come a little later in your life.
What is that like for you? and how would you encourage new writers in their writing journey?
I won a chapbook contest in 2004
, but yes, Where the Sky Opens
is my first full-length book. A long wait. Some years after the chapbook, I hit a publishing plateau that left me bewildered. Disheartened, I quit writing. Then found I couldn’t not write.
Fine. I’d only submit to journals, anthologies. No Author’s Life for me. But new poems kept grouping themselves. Seaming them together excited me and further mended my sadness.
Honestly? The Holy Spirit compelled me to hit “Send.” I shot high because joining The Poeima Poetry Series poets of faith felt like the double-dog dare-ya, big-deal chance of a lifetime.
A first book at my age embodies God’s sense of humor, this healing, patient, far-seeing Author of our faith stories. I needed the twenty-year apprenticeship with Him as well as with writing.
New writers, you already know the sound advice. Use what works for you, in this season of life.
Something I wish I’d known sooner?
· Play (and rest) more than you think you should
BONUS question–name your top 5 favorite poets.
This is like “name your favorite color.” I always have to add “today.” My 5 favorite poets and their poems this week are:
- Kelly Agodon: Geography
- Rainer Maria Rilke: Rilke’s Book of Hours
- Ted Kooser: Delights & Shadows
- Ilya Kaminsky: Dancing in Odessa
- Mary Oliver: Felicity
To purchase “Where the Sky Opens” from Cascade Books, click here.
You can find more wonder and words on Laurie’s blog here.
A photo from our first meeting Way Back When. We did not coordinate the animal print tops.