Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Poet, Donna Marie Merritt, Her House and Other Poems

AUTHOR: Donna Marie Merritt
BOOK TITLE: Her House and Other Poems
PUBLISHER: Stairwell Books

Tell me a little about your book.
My first three poetry books each had a definite theme (unemployment, cancer, and a return to “ordinary” days). I hope those books help others who are going through difficult times, but I wanted this book to be more free-flowing. Her House and Other Poems is based on my observations of nature, relationships, intimacy, the joys and challenges of growing older… It’s a deeper look at, and appreciation of, the people and things we encounter every day and I hope it speaks to everyone on some level.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Once upon a time I was a full-time writer, but financial necessity has forced me into a day job, particularly for the health benefits. True for many writers, I suppose. I’m lucky, though, that my job requires no after-hours work, so my nights and weekends are free for writing or promoting (something we all have to do more of these days) or reading (a huge part of being a writer). And, since I work in a school, I am incredibly fortunate to have summers to delve into projects.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first poem when I was eight, but no one ever told me I could be a writer until I was in college, and even then I didn’t know how to go about it. So, I taught school for 14 years, worked several years as an editor, and published magazine articles, columns, etc., before I had enough courage to submit my poetry as a book manuscript.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I hope readers will find a bit of themselves in my work. John Keats said, “Poetry…should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance.” Each poem should mean something different to different readers. I don’t believe there is any one way to interpret any poem by any writer. If readers smile or cry or just enjoy a poem without knowing why, I’ll be quite content!

Why are you drawn to poetry?
It’s a passion, a love, something that has been part of me for as long as I can recall. Poetry has a way of touching the heart.

Would you say poetry is easier or harder to write than fiction and why?
For me, it’s harder. I struggle to find the right line, the right phrase, the right word. And I frequently shred poems that just aren’t coming together. For every poem I write, I probably toss half a dozen. Even after Her House was accepted for publication, my editor narrowed down the 100 poems I’d submitted to 56 of the strongest. You have to be willing to look at your work objectively and have your editor/publisher do the same.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
The toughest part is knowing that despite pouring all your emotions and hard work into your writing, realistically, few people beyond family and friends will ever see it unless you’re a big name. Still, I keep going because I can’t imagine NOT writing.

Is there anything in your poetry based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
I think most poetry is based on real events. The first poem in this book is about washing dishes with my grandmother, to whom the book is dedicated. I write about past memories, current situations, and try to examine how connections are made between people, between people and the environment—even the connections we make with our own hearts, minds, and souls. We can never stop discovering who we are and where we “fit” in this world.

What about your poetry makes it special?
I suppose I think it’s special because readers may nod in recognition as they read certain poems. It’s accessible, not abstract.

What is your marketing plan?
My marketing plan is to get the word out in as many ways as I can (with as little money as I can!). I send out review copies, do blog interviews (THANK you, Penny!), promote on social media sites, and so on. I also create a promotional item for each book. For this book, I had coasters made with the title and website. In addition to putting them out at poetry readings, I left them at bars and liquor stores to be given away, along with flyers that advertised the book’s launch and signing, which was in June. And, I finally jumped on the book trailer wagon and invested in having someone create one for me. I am SO glad I did. Please, please take a look (it’s a little over a minute long—part of the key is to make it short):

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
You can visit my website ( or learn more on Wikipedia (

Would you give us an example of your poetry?
Here is the first part of a poem called “For My Daughters.”

I have loved you since before you were born
There is not one thing you could do or say
to make me walk away
You are my rays of sun
                  petals opening to dawn’s light
                  stars shooting across sky
                  dolphins dancing through waves
                                    Pure Joy

Any tips for new writers hoping to write poetry?
Read, read, read. And not just poetry, but many genres. Observe, observe, observe. Keep your eyes and ears open and see and hear things as if for the first time. Feel the wonder in that sensation and acknowledge it with your words.

Her House and Other Poems is a culmination of observation, reflecting on those details that so often pass by undetected, yet play an enormous part in our lives. Along the way we examine our fragile bargain with nature—and how close we are to chaos when nature reminds us just who is in charge. Long countryside walks, a good glass of wine, family and friends, growing older… all these Merritt celebrates with gratitude.

“Here we have an eye open to the world, that poem by poem brings that world into view for all to see, and to be nurtured by.” ~David Kherdian, Author of Living in Quiet: New and Selected Poems

Her House is filled with delicious morsels for the poetic palate.” ~Dave Morrison, Author of Fail


  1. What a great interview! I love it. I'm the editor who worked with Donna Marie to hone the list. It does take trying to be as detached as possible; my own editor removed poems that *had* to be included and the result was all the stronger for it. Donna's collection made me smile at memories of meh-not-so-bad blackouts, and lovely walks through nature. AND daughters. -- Rose Drew, SWB

  2. I just finished reading this wonderful collection and will be writing my own review soon. I love how this interview provides context, especially as it relates to Donna's previous collections and to her life as a writer!