Tuesday, January 17, 2023

TBR: Like Water in the Palm of My Hand by Lois Roma-Deeley

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.


We don’t expect an elevator pitch from a poet, but can you tell us about your work in 2-3 sentences?


“Roma-Deeley’s poems seek to pitch imagination beyond itself to something more like divination. These are poems that show us ‘how hard it is to be a human being,’ but which also ‘celebrate the moment of possibility.’”Daniel Tobin


Which poem/s did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which poem/s gave you the most trouble, and why?


Some of the most enjoyable poems came out of collaborations with visual artists which lead me to surprising and completely unexpected places in my work.  More specifically:


The poems “Be There No End to the End of this Night” (originally published as “Be There No End to the End of this Day”), “Now That,” “Empty Spaces,” “How to Be Rooted,” “If When,” “The Love Poem (I Can Not Write),” and “If I Were Smarter, I’d Be More Afraid” (reprinted) were part of the exhibition Geology of Spirit: A Photo-Poetic Collaboration, with fine art photographers Patrick O'Brien and Cyd Peroni, and with poet Rosemarie Dombrowski. The poems “I Came Here for Some Answers” and “The Virgin River Speaks of Loneliness” were written in response to the work of visual artist Beth Shadur. The poems “What It Is or How to Get There” and “Why Moon Jellyfish Won’t Speak of Cancer” were written in response to the work of visual artist Cherie Buck-Hutchison.




 The more difficult poems to write were troubling emotionally. These came out of deeply painful personal experiences. Even though some of those poems garnered national attention, they were difficult to write and difficult to see published.   Several poems in the book came out of my own private experiences with breast cancer.  For example, the New Millennium Writings XLV contest, selected my poem “Why Moon Jellyfish Won’t Speak of Cancer” as a finalist. Such poems dealing with cancer were also include in Vice-Versa’s Illness as a Form of Existence Anthology, which republished “Why Moon Jellyfish Won’t Speak of Cancer” and also included “Absence in Five Parts.”  Similarly, the poem “In My Brother’s Recovery Room” was based on my experience with my older brother’s two week stay in the hospital due to his heart operation. This poem found a home in Italian Americana.


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


Almost every poem in this collection has been published. The collection, as a whole, has been a finalist and semi-finalist for national contests. I was pleased to know the poems and the collection as a whole resonated with various and varied audiences but it always stings to come close and “still no cigar.” However, I eventually was elated to find Kelsay Books as my new publisher and am so pleased with my experience with them.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


My favorite pieces of writing advice are “write line by line,” “write until something surprises you” and “allow everything that wants to come into the poem, come into it.”   All these pieces of advice have one thing in common—they allow for a “give and take” between craft and imagination. For me, the best poems come when I am not clutching onto perfectionism—when I write a line and then allow my imagination to expand.  There is a kind of joy I experience when I write another line and see where that line will take me. At this point, I will remember that craft will help me shape the poem into its ultimate form. In other words, it is more than okay to be messy.


What surprised you in the writing of this book?


Many voices demanded to be heard in this book. I was surprised by how those voices connected with me and how they lead me on a journey toward a deeper understanding of “how very hard it is to be a human being.”


How did you find the title of your book?


This collection explores the nature of change and its relationship to time and timelessness which, to my mind, seem to co-exist within each of us. In addition, I am fascinated by the limits and lessons of memory and how memory often serves as a conduit to the past but can also be a bridge to the future.  The present moment is fraught with competing realities which seem to crystalize and then, too soon, disappear, “like water in the palm of my hand.” Are we, as human beings, the sum of our choices? Are we trapped or enlarged by those choices?



Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


I am Italian-American and love to create a feast for my family and guests. So I would say this book would go perfectly with my Baked Ziti, stuffed mushrooms, Pinot Noir wine, crusty Italian bread served and Caprese Salad. I don’t use a written down recipe for the Baked Ziti. I just make the dish as my mother taught me. However, I’ll include a recipe for Caprese Salad, which is refreshing—as I hope readers will find of the poems in my book: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/caprese-salad-recipe-1939232

















DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.