A POET IS PUBLISHED – A MERE 50+ YEARS LATER

 

 

Hi, Everyone:

How many of you remember being read to by your mother or father when you were a child?

When I was a child, I remember my mother reading poetry to my brother and me, and as I grew up, I remember her writing it. During her 20s and 30s, she wrote hundreds of poems. In her late 30s, she went back to work, and her love for writing poetry was set aside.

My mother, Dr. Jean Lisette Brodey, a retired Temple University journalism professor, is now in her 80s. About a year ago, I asked her where her poems were, and she said she feared they were lost. I knew they were not, as I’d seen them in her house. During a visit back to Philadelphia in September 2012, I found the poetry and began making plans to choose 50-some poems for a small collection.

FINALMyWayToAnywhere

That is how the book My Way to Anywhere began. Most of the poetry, expressed through imagery, abstract concepts, and word portraits, is about people who affected my mother’s life. My favorite poem in the book is called “An Ending.” It is a poem that tells of the death of my mother’s friend’s 27-year-old husband who died of cancer.

Here is an excerpt:

Why do we rend the days with our grief?

He would not have it so

For he respected life

Too much to bewail its passing

And death was too obscure

To have a place in his philosophy.

The thing has been decreed

(he would have said)

So if you have to pause

Let it be to reason

Not to mutter or complain

Then go on to ponder things

That somehow can be explained.

Death is a void, that’s all.

He would not toy with idle questions

For reason was his god and he was twenty-seven.

On a lighter note, there is a section of the book called FOR CHILDREN. Here is one short poem:

2

A wondrous number is 2.

There’s so much

2 can do!

2’s less than 3

2’s more than 1.

2 is an awful lot of fun!

My Way to Anywhere is not my mother’s first book. In 1983, through Westminster Press, she published Mid-Life Careers.

Mid-life Careers

JAY LENO AND THE CHICKEN WINGS

The heading above is probably the last thing you’d expect in a blog about my mother and her poetry book. Well, let me explain.

When Mid-Life Careers came out, my mother did a great deal of publicity for the book in Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles.

One of her bookings was on an early morning Los Angeles talk show, and Jay Leno was one of the other guests. I have no idea why, but Jay was cooking up chicken wings on the show. My mother had five minutes to talk about her book, and while on the air, Jay came over to her and said he’d like “the doctor” to taste his chicken wings. My mother wasn’t about to give up her five minutes tasting Jay’s chicken wings and promptly declined, whereupon Jay called her a “party pooper” or something like that. After that, she was never a fan of Jay’s. I think she’s gotten over it, though. But I do remember having to rip off the cover of her TV Guide when he was on it. (And yes, it was the very same cover seen below!)

JayLeno

On a New York talk show, my mother was lucky enough to be a guest along with legendary singer Eartha Kitt and after the show enjoyed a wonderful lunch with her.

But the most memorable moment after the publication of Mid-Life Careers was seeing a downtown Philadelphia bookstore filled with copies of her book. What author wouldn’t love that?

Throughout her career as a tenured professor at Temple University teaching public relations, my mother won many prestigious awards, including induction into the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Hall of Fame.

PLEASE MEET DR. JEAN LISETTE BRODEY

Mom

Well, enough of my reminiscing. I have interviewed my mother for this blog, and I do hope you’ll enjoy meeting her.

When did your love of poetry begin?

When I was about five years old, my mother read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses to me. It was better than hearing a story. The rhymes delighted me, and I found them to be lots of fun. Because the poems were read to me on a regular basis, they became a part of my young life. I still remember some of the poems by heart, such as “My Shadow” and “The Swing.”

Do you remember when you wrote your first poem?

I don’t remember my first poem. But when I was in the first or second grade, I wrote a poem and showed it to my father. I told him that I had written it, but he didn’t seem to believe me. He asked me again if I had written it and then asked me if I had copied it out of a poetry book. I was pleased that he thought it was that good, but I was also hurt that he didn’t think I had written it.

Did any of your grade school teachers recognize your talent for writing poetry?

I can’t recall which grade it was, but I had a teacher named Mrs. Schulke who liked my poetry so much that she had it illustrated by a talented student named George Logan and put it together in a book for me.

Did your love for poetry continue throughout junior high and high school?

Yes, as a matter of fact, under my photo yearbook in Philadelphia’s General Louis Wagner Junior High School, I stated that I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. I didn’t really know what journalists did; I just knew that they wrote. And I figured that they wrote poetry.

I remember writing poems for special occasions. A poem I wrote for my aunt Nancy is still in my head. It goes like this:

On Christmas and your birthday,

Any occasion of the year,

You can always depend on stockings,

That come from Nancy dear.

You earned a degree in journalism from Penn State University. What did you hope to do with your degree?

I wanted a job that involved writing, but I had no specific expectations. At a local youth hostel, while attending a meeting for hiking and camping enthusiasts, I met a man who was a job recruiter. Through him, I was hired at the Frank H. Fleer Company in Philadelphia. The company manufactured Double Bubble gum, and I was hired to edit the company’s internal publication and to write facts and fortunes for bubble gum wrappers. During my three years at this company, I got married and then became pregnant with the person interviewing me right now.

When did you seriously begin writing poetry?

Once I stopped working outside the home, my love for writing poetry became more intense.

How did you judge your own work? Did you think you were a good poet? How does one define “good” in terms of poetry?

The answers are complex. For every poem I wrote, I had a general idea of what I wanted to say and how I hoped readers would perceive it. Even though I wrote in abstract terms, it was always my hope that my words would stir the reader. My right to use the label “poet” often changed depending on my own feelings about a poem and other people’s comments. Sometimes how I felt had nothing to do with the poetry and everything to do with what was going on in my life.

You felt very strongly about the widow of poet Edgar Lee Masters, Ellen Coyne Masters. She had a great influence on your work. Please tell us more.

I met Mrs. Masters at Penn State (Ogontz campus), where she was teaching an adult class in reading literature. When I first saw her, I had strong negative feelings. But those feelings changed very quickly into positive ones. She had a strong personality, and I suppose not knowing her at first, I perceived her differently.

Shortly after meeting her, I read her late husband’s masterpiece, Spoon River Anthology, which is a collection of fictional epitaphs about a community called Spoon River. I was inspired by the work of Edgar Lee Masters. I even wrote some fictional epitaphs of my own in the same vein. [Two of them are included in My Way to Anywhere.] I also was inspired to write poems about the poet and his wife.

Mrs. Masters was gracious enough to look at my poetry from time to time and encouraged me to write more. Positive reinforcement from her gave me an incredible joie de vivre.

Do you remember the first time one of your poems was accepted for publication?

Yes! My family and I had been away on vacation, and the post office was holding my mail. When I went to collect the mail, I saw a letter from a national poetry magazine. I opened it up and found out that it was an acceptance. I was overjoyed, thrilled, and, most importantly, felt like a poet.

Who are some of your favorite poets to read?

My favorite poet is Wallace Stevens. I also love Emily Dickinson, Amy Lowell, Walt Whitman, James Joyce, e. e. cummings, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Theodore Roethke, William Wordsworth, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and, of course, Edgar Lee Masters.

Your poetry is now being published some 50 to 60 years after you wrote it. How does that make you feel?

Wonderful. I had stopped writing poetry after I went back to work. Several years later, I earned my master’s and doctorate degrees in education and worked until retirement as a journalism professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, so there was no time in my life to pursue poetry. Having this collection of my poetry published now makes me realize how important poetry has always been to me.

Thanks for a great interview, Mom!

September 14, 2014: It is with a very heavy heart that I must add that my mother died on April 30, 2014. I was blessed to be with her at the very end.

Buy Links for My Way to Anywhere

Amazon (Paperback)

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Amazon UK

 

 

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Comments

A POET IS PUBLISHED – A MERE 50+ YEARS LATER — 35 Comments

  1. Thank you so very much, Alyce. I appreciate your words so much. Yes, my mother did have a great influence on me. For one, as a writer, I appreciate all of the times she corrected my grammar! 🙂 And so much more!

    I wish you the very best with your poetry as well.

    all best wishes,
    Lisette

  2. A wonderful interview! This is such a lovely thing to do for your mother! I’m looking forward to reading the poems. That excerpt from ‘An Ending’ is so moving. I can see where your writing talent comes from, Lisette!

  3. Thank you so much, Maria! I’m so glad you liked the excerpt from “An Ending.” It is the longest poem in the book, and as I mentioned in the blog, my favorite. I am very happy that the book is out and thank you so much for your interest and support. It means so much to me! 🙂

    • Thank you, Dean. I’m so happy this book is out! I spent many days with the poetry trying to select the best variety to publish. Out of hundreds of poems, it wasn’t easy! Your words are much appreciated. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Jane. My mother is indeed amazing! I’m so happy to be able to publish this book and tell the world just a little bit about her life. I appreciate your comment so much. Best, Lisette

  4. How fortunate that your Mom’s interest in word craft gave you an early start in your literary career. The interview is very well done and maintains an air of an un-relatedness and third party objectivity.

    • Thank you, Ed. Yes, my mother’s interest in word craft did give me an early start. I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview. Even in the process of doing it, I learned some new things about her as well. Thank you for commenting and good luck with your book!

  5. What a great blog post! I love hearing about how children truly appreciate and recognize their parents. Makes me think that all this hard work will be worth it one day!

    • Thank you, Michelle:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog! Yes, I do appreciate all of the gifts from my mother. I learned a great deal from her that I didn’t learn in school. 🙂 Thanks for everything!

  6. How beautiful and delightful for you both! No wonder you’re such a great and nuanced writer yourself. (Oh yeah, I keep forgetting to tell you, I’ve started reading ‘Crooked Moon’ and it’s wonderful!) Many congrats to the good Dr.

    • Thank you, Molly! (My special guest at the Chateau this week!)
      I really appreciate your kind words and wow, I didn’t know you were reading Crooked Moon. Thank you for everything (and I will be reading your work, too!)

  7. What a wonderful interview! I remember writing poems throughout high school and grade school as well. That’s how I started writing too. Poems were a great escape for me, and they helped me sort out feelings that I didn’t know how to express. It’s never too late to share your words with the world, and this just goes to prove that.

    Fabulous interview Lisette, and it was great meeting your mother Jean and reading her wonderful words.

    • Thank you, Racheal. I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview. I also wrote hundreds of poems during grade school and high school. And I did it for the reasons that you mention — doing so was a great escape. I never aspired to be a poet, though. I am sure I wouldn’t have been as good as my mother. Thanks for being such a great friend!

  8. It is truly inspiring to see how the two of you support each other, a true mother-daughter team. Lisette, I know how important this project was for you. I read a few of the poems and I am delighted. This is powerful work. My first love was (and still is) poetry and I wrote poems before I began to write novels, so poetry is always close to my heart.

    Wonderful interview.
    Christa

    • Thank you so much, Christa. I didn’t know that poetry was your first love. Does that mean we can expect a collection of your work after your next novel? 🙂 Poetry is really special; one poem can be interpreted so many different ways by each reader.

  9. What an incredible, sweet thing to do for your mother! Congrats both of you are so talented, looking forward to read your beautiful mother poems, blessings!

  10. Hi Lisette:

    I absolutely loved your interview with (the very talented), Dr. Jean Lisette Brodey. Your exceptional talent for storytelling is undoubtedly in the genes. A great accomplishment and legacy to have your mothers enchanting poetry in a book for all to read and enjoy. I look forward to my copy arriving from Amazon soon!

    Congratulations to you both.

  11. Ross,

    Thank you so very much! I do hope you will enjoy my mother’s poetry as much as I have. Her many poems stayed in my heart and mind all of these years—it is a book that had to be published.

    Thanks so much for everything!

  12. Fascinating subject, fascinating interview. I loved the first excerpt about the death of a friend’s husband, especially the final line. And A Child’s Garden of Verses really took me back. My Shadow was my favorite, too. (I’m going to look for my copy right now.)

    Thank you for sharing your mom with us, Lisette!

  13. Ann, thank you for your lovely comment. I think it’s so wonderful that you’re also a fan of A Child’s Garden of Verses. I hope you found your copy! I remember that book so fondly. 🙂

  14. So much of Dr. Brodey’s references to her feelings about her poetry I can relate to. Her book is amazing and I hope to read more of her work.

    Thank you Lisette for giving us the opportunity to read and enjoy her amazing verses.

    Thank you Dr. Brodey for continuing to write so that we may have your words evoke such wonderful images and emotions in all of us.

    • Thank you, Marta. I really appreciate your words, especially coming from another poet. Your support is something I truly treasure. Thank you for reading My Way to Anywhere and for the wonderful review you wrote. So very nice of you.

  15. Lisette,
    Your mothers interview was very fascinating. Her love of writing shines through. You definitely have inherited her talent with the pen! I look forward to reading My Way to Anywhere!
    Sheri

    • Thank you so much, Sheri. I look forward to chatting with you after you read the book. I’ll be very interested to know which poems you liked best. You’re the best!

  16. I cannot wait to get my copy of this book! The interview was wonderful, and I find both authors fascinating! Lisette, this is amazing what you did for your mother. And, Dr. Brodey, I am so very much looking forward to reading your work. (Also, I think it’s great that Dr. Brodey did not eat Jay Leno’s wings. She definitely had much more important things to talk about than that. Way to go!)

    Is MID-LIFE CAREERS still available for purchase? On Amazon?

    Thank you for this remarkable interview!

    • Hi, PA:

      Thanks so much for you lovely comment. Yes, indeed. My mother was not going to give up her five minutes to spend at least half of them eating and discussing Jay’s chicken wings! 🙂

      Mid-Life Careers is still available through purchase through secondhand sellers. Of course, as it was a career book published in 1983, it is considered long outdated. That said, much of what my mother wrote about (which was in a personal way and not a textbook way) is still very relevant today. It’s surprising.

      I’m really delighted you enjoyed the interview.

      All best wishes,
      Lisette

  17. Feel so privileged to read this – what an amazing accomplished woman your mum was… and you’ve inherited so much talent, warmth and wisdom from her… there is much to be celebrated even as we mourn the passing of an exceptional soul. Lots of love.

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