Season 3 Episode 12: Mary Jo Malo, Celebrating World Poetry Day

Welcome to Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

Thank you for listening in.

I am your host Rebecca Budd, and I am looking forward to sharing this moment with you. I am delighted to meet up with my friend and poet, Mary Jo Malo. We are bridging the distance of 3,420 kilometers between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Vancouver, British Columbia to discuss poetry and a poet’s calling. Driving time is 31 hours, Zoom time, 31 seconds.  

We will be marking World Poetry Day, which occurred yesterday, on March 21, 2021, which was adopted during UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999. UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.  

So put the kettle on and celebrate poetry on Tea, Toast & Trivia.com. This promises to be an extraordinary conversation.

Thank you for joining Mary Jo and me on Tea Toast & Trivia. And a special thank you, Mary Jo, for sharing your insight on poetry for World Poetry Day.  You inspire me to celebrate poetry every day.

Dear listeners, I invite you to meet up with Mary Jo on her blog, This Shining Wound, Original poetry by Mary Jo Malo.  It is a place where the music of words dwells.

Until next time, stay safe, be well.

Mary Jo Malo on Poetry & A Poet’s Calling Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

78 Replies to “Season 3 Episode 12: Mary Jo Malo, Celebrating World Poetry Day”

  1. That was a wonderful interview. Words do often ambush us. I get a lot of inspiration while walking in the bosque. Sometimes I dictate the words on my phone while I’m walking so I don’t forget them. Oral tradition gets lost in our busy world. I agree with Mary Jo that listening to a poem recited with the emotions and emphases on the stanzas by the author adds much more meaning to the poetry than simply reading it. It does cause you to slow down and take note. Epic poetry is a lost art, in my opinion. There are so many great epic poems from the past that have shaped our culture. What I find interesting knowing a lot of poets on WordPress is that the quality of the poetry of the poets I follow, like Mary Jo, is outstanding. At recent conferences for Ancient and Modern Language Associations (AMLA), I listened to academics recite their poems. As I was listening to the rather mundane and often predictable stanzas recited by the various academics I thought to myself that these people can’t hold a candle to the poets I follow on WordPress. I have really come to appreciate and respect poets like Mary Jo after my experience with poets from around the country and around the world who are associated with the academics of poetry.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thank you Tim, for adding breadth and depth to this conversation. I am grateful that Mary Jo shared her insights and experience. She has a poet’s calling. I agree wholeheartedly that we have remarkable poets within our blogging community. I recognize that it is important to analyze poetry, but it must be done in a way that it doesn’t lead to missing the beauty, complexity and message embedded within the words. I remember dissecting a poem until it was meaningless to me. Having reread those same poems years later, I am amazed by the power of poetry and wonder how I could have thought they were just dry words. I just spoke with my mother, Frances – we are going to read Evangeline together. She read it many years ago and now, she said, it it time to read it again and remember. Thank you so much for your most excellent comments – very much appreciated.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. This was so much fun, Rebecca, to discuss reading and writing poetry! A couple years ago when you blogged about coming to poetry late in life, that really resonated with me. Your love for it actually inspired me to begin my own blog, and your constant encouragement has been priceless. You are responsible for my latest creative season which was dormant for the last fifteen years. Thank you for loving poetry!

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I LOVED our conversation, Mary Jo, and am looking forward to our next podcast together. Several years ago, I remember walking to work and listening to poets reading their own poetry: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louise Bogan…. It was a pivotal “ah ha” moment for me. That was when I knew that I had to return to poetry. But how? And that is when serendipity stepped in and we met through Britt’s blog. Some things are meant to be… Thank you so much for sharing your gift of poetry. Sending many hugs!

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Thank you so very much, Tim! We do have many wonderful poets in the WordPress community, and really an abundance of creative photographers, musicians, novelists, etc. Academic poets certainly have their place in the world of poetics, especially since they are what I call career poets—those trying to make a living or achieve recognition through teaching and writing. No small feat, but as you’ve experienced, that doesn’t mean they’re good poets. Individual taste also figures into it.

      However simply dissecting a poem to its components and surmising the process of other poets can destroy the very thing they seek to extol. I learn much more from an academic survey of poets, poetry styles and schools than the parsing of parts. Almost 20 years ago I mingled with professional poets in a list-serve group. One of the best experiences of my life.

      I’m sure many famous poets would have cringed at the current autopsies of their precious creations. These days I’m just happy people enjoy poetry at all. Thank you again for your comments!

      Liked by 5 people

    3. I am more and more convinced that poetry should be read aloud. I’m interested in your comments about listening to academic poets recite their rather mundane and often predictable stanzas. Were these of the MFA-workshopped-the-life-out-of-them variety? The academic poetry I have little use for are the exercises in the arcane or incomprehensivle that only other academic poets will appreciate. I follow some very accomplished poets on WordPress as well, including Mary Jo.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Hi Liz. One conference was the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association Conference. It’s a huge international conference, 4 1/2 days with around 20+ concurrent sessions of papers and round tables running from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm each day, then various workshops and group sessions up until 11:00 pm each night.

        On the first night Laurie and I were looking for a workshop when a young woman ran out from a room and said “come on you need to join our workshop”. Why she chose us out of the crowd, I can’t say. Maybe we have that misfit look about us. We followed her and joined their workshop. The workshop was on education and how to engage minority and students who don fit into the “normal” public education mold. I forget which universities and school districts the people hosting the workshop were from but they were mostly large, inner city schools. Turned out the hosts had similar philosophies about education as we do, and they were misfits as well.So we got along really well. Later that night we all got together to tell stories and read our poetry to each other. They did what they called “Guerilla Poetry” and street poetry. Their poetry was excellent because they had truly experienced the prejudices, lived through the violence and dealt with injustice they wrote about. So their poetry was very emotional and the listeners could really feel their pains, joys and sorrows.

        Then I went to some poetry readings by professors, who are true academics. They may be excellent teachers and researchers, but I was so disappointing with their poetry. Their poems were mostly of politics, racism, sexism, violence, etc. However, unlike the Guerilla Poets who have experienced racism, sexism and violence, I could tell the academics had never really had the experiences they were writing about. I say their poetry was mundane and predictable because it followed the talking points about politics, racism, sexism, and violence, and they were more like headlines of from the national news then real experiences.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Thank you for the additional information, Timothy. What you experienced at the conference makes perfect sense to me. Poetry isn’t about talking points. That would be a lecture. I had a student in my writing process class not long ago who is a Guerilla Poet. He was the most engaged and supportive member of the class, in fact.

        Liked by 4 people

      3. You are welcome. I see you commented at T&L. I haven’t had tome to read and answer your comments.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Mary Jo and Rebecca, for the eloquent and compelling conversation! An amazing primer, in under 16 minutes, on writing and appreciating poetry! Among the podcast’s many highlights for me: hearing about the importance of listening (including the way that beneficially slows things down) and your recollection, Mary Jo, of bravely assembling that poetic bulletin-board content when you were a student.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Mary Jo was indeed brave to assemble that poetic bulletin-board, Dave. I was very interested in knowing when Mary Jo began writing poetry for it seems that there is almost a mystical connection to creativity. The questions become, does poetry find a poet, does writing find a writer, does painting find a painter? Perhaps is comes down to listening to our inner thoughts and responding to an urge to create. David Henry Thoreau says it best: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” I am delighted that you listened in and for all your support and encouragement of the TTT conversations from the very beginning.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Thank you, Dave! It really was such a comfortable, welcoming experience being interviewed by Rebecca. She asks the best questions and makes it a fun experience!

      Liked by 3 people

    3. I was so impressed by Mary Jo’s assembling the bulletin board featuring her own poetry. If I had been her English teacher, I would have been so pleased!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you so much for this conversation about poetry and the many life experiences, which help us to feel and hear it clearer, especially by taking the necessary time to enjoy it.:)

    Liked by 5 people

    1. How well said, Martina – taking the necessary time to enjoy it. The idea of listening is becoming more important for me these day. Listening for understanding takes time that offers rich rewards in terms of emotional health. Thank you for listening in – very much appreciated!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Hi Rebecca and Mary Jo, it was lovely to listen to this conversation about poetry and its composition. It is true that poets love words but use them minimally to make strong impacts. I don’t write a lot of poetry but when I do it is an expression of strong emotion. I have recently followed Mary Jo and am enjoying reading her lovely poems. Poetry and poets are close to my heart and that is why I do so much to promote it through my Treasuring Poetry series over at Writing to be Read blog with Kaye Lynne Booth and my FB group, Poetry Sharing Group. I also follow a lot of poets on WP and have found a huge world of talent in this community. My favourite poem is The Listeners by Walter de la Mare.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you, Robbie, and how wonderful that you support poets through your own formats! Listening is key to so many efforts in life. And who doesn’t love listening to Rebecca’s lovely voice!

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Thank you, Robbie, for joining his conversation and for adding that poetry is an expression of strong emotion. From personal experience I find that a poet evokes an “in-kind” emotional response. Poetry allows us to explore our vulnerabilities. I have come to Writing to be Read blog with Kaye Lynne Booth several times and have added a link, in my comments for others to head over for a visit. https://writingtoberead.com/tag/robbie-cheadle/. I have also located your Poetry Sharing Group on Facebook and look forward to the ongoing discussion. I found The Listeners by Walter de la Mare and can understand why this is your family poem. I have attached the link for easy access.
      “Is there anybody there? Said the Traveller,
      Knocking on the moonlit door.”
      https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47546/the-listeners
      Sending hugs along with my gratitude for your support and encouragement of the conversations on TTT.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. HI Rebecca, I am so glad I discovered your wonderful WP platforms, I really enjoy your posts. I have accepted your request for the Poetry sharing group and please feel free to share there. There a quite a few poetry lovers in that group. Do you know the work of David Ellis and Cendrine Marrouat? They have some combined poetry and photography books that I think you would like. I thought you would know The Listeners or I would have included a link. It is a wonderful poem, full of mystery and delight.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I am delighted to be on your Poetry Sharing Group and look forward to exploring poetry and meeting up with poets. I have never heard of David Ellis and Cendrine Marrouat. Cendrine lives in Winnipeg, my old stomping grounds so will love to hear her thoughts on standing on the corner of Portage and Main (the coldest corner in Winnipeg) I remember Walter da la Mere from high school but it was a different poem, which I am trying to remember – searching poetry sources as I write this comment. Thank you for being a champion of poetry and literature, something that is needed to remind us to pause, reflect and engage. Sending many hugs along with my gratitude.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. I don’t think I’ve read “The Listeners,” so I just sought it out and read it. It reminds me very much of the poetry my dad read to me when I was very young.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you for this inspiring and encouraging conversation. I believe most of us would really desire to write poetry but feel inadequate. I believe poetry is able to express good and profitable thoughts better than ordinary conversation. I find this exchange between the two of you encouraging. Maybe, I need to write a few lines, listen to them, change some words and start over. Perhaps, persistence is important. Any desire needs thought–this exchange has helped me see beyond my inadequate former endeavors..

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    1. I agree, Ms Frances, that we feel inadequate to express our poetic nature. When we should be our strongest advocates, we become our greatest critic. I think it would be a good idea to write a few lines, listen to to them, changes some words and even start over. I have my fountain pen now, which may spark my creativity. I am delighted that you enjoyed this conversation. It was very special to me, too!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I encourage you and Ms Frances to write poetry. It’s a wonderful, creative process that takes you places you’d never have imagined or experienced before! You already have reverence for the word, so you will only gain in that domain. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Hear, hear, Rebecca! The great thing about writing poetry is that we can spend an entire morning playing around with two words, whereas if a prose writer does that, she is looked at askance.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. The longer I write, and the longer I teach, the more I have become convinced that putting value judgments on poetry and fiction or any kind of expressive writing is the wrong conversation to have. The question is whether the poem is good or bad. It’s whether it expresses what the person needs to express in a way that will be meaningful to herself and to other people. Craft and technical prowess can aid in that process–but sometimes they can actually hinder. I’m so glad to hear that you’re considering engaging in writing poetry yourself, Ms. Francis. I hope you will put the specter of inadequacy far, far behind you.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Ah, Rebecca you have said it so well, “a place where the music of words dwells”. I love reading Mary Jo’s poetry, not only with my eyes but with my ears too and as a musician I hear such beautiful chords, melodies and harmonies. Thank you, my dearest Rebecca for letting us in this wonderful conversation. I enjoyed it very much! Many hugs to both. ❤️🤗❤️🤗

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    1. Sending many hugs back your way, Marina. I am delighted you joined the conversation with Mary Jo and me. You have me thinking about the strong link between music and poetry. Music has rhyme, rhythm and repetition which recalls the music of poetry – cadence, rhythm, rhyme. I must look into this idea. You have given me something to consider going forward. Sending hugs along with my thanks.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. It was a pleasure joining in your beautiful conversation with Mary Jo.
        Words are music and Mary Jo is an amazing lyricist! Many hugs! 🤗😘

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Thank you, dear Marina, for taking the time to listen to our conversation. Your support and appreciation is a gift to our community of creatives. Since you’re one of the most diverse creative people we know, it’s always a pleasure when you read and comment. Ah, the music of words and color… 🙂 xoxoxo

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      1. I enjoyed listening, my dearest friend. I am so grateful for our friendship. Indeed… music, words and color. I’m sure you have a task for them in a future poem! ❤🤗

        Liked by 4 people

  7. Like Becky said in the first comment it is wonderful to learn about other people’s creative process and especially so with Mary Jo. I always though poetry was almost mystically inspired, springing forth fully armoured like Athena from the head of Zeus. Mary Jo showed how her process was related to how I begin to write a piece. At certain points we diverge, as the poet’s aim is the elegance and economy of the line where as the prose writer builds in the opposite direction- but essentially any creation has many commonalities.
    I could listen to her for hours exploring some of the byways she mentioned all too briefly. For example, how modern music has replaced the public utterance of poetry. In the 18th century poetry books were our media players, you could take them anywhere and enjoy them alone in silence or aloud in a group. Also poetry as memory, preserving ancient languages. She touched on the Iliad and the Odyssey. They were recited for 400 years before being written down.The ancient rhyme forms supported the whole poem – misplace a line and the poem was lost, so rhyme acting as aide memoirs was essential. Even in Roman times part of a child’s education was to commit both poems to memory.
    You are both right about poetry being meant to be read aloud. I often find what looks dead on the page zings with life when recited.
    Finally let me say I found Mary Jo’s Poiesis accomplished. It did all she described in her talk, easy on the ear, lyrical but thought provoking. Lines produced strong internal images summoning sometimes unrelated emotional responses. It was rather like a piece of music by someone like Debussy – words at play rather than waves at play.
    Also nice to hear of Liz’s involvement in Mary Jo’s local writing community. Another powerful talent I have you to thank you for, Rebecca.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for listening, Paul, and commenting so generously! You, Rebecca and Liz, as well as so many other writers-bloggers, build a supportive online community in which we can all flourish and draw personal inspiration. Rebecca has a gift for interviewing and sharing, as well as writing and photography! And…her technical ‘support staff’ is outstanding. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Mary Jo, your chat with Rebecca was thoroughly illuminating and passed too quickly, leaving me wanting more.
        To be honest, I would have to disagree with your kindly thought to put me in the same catagory as Liz and Rebecca as supporters of the community. Although I do love to chat and am a pinata of opinions, I do not make a difference, like Rebecca, who gives writers (which is essentially a lonely and inward looking profession) a window to the sunlit world.
        Don is a technical genius and it is easy to overlook his contribution until one hears the wonders he produces with the audio.
        From what you mentioned about Liz’s contribution I would say she is in much the same league. The woman is a true talent – her short stories knocked my socks off.
        But thanks for your lovely kind impulse to include we among the numious.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Paul – are you ready for another podcast on the subject of support?!! Oh, there are so many conversations waiting for our arrival. Will be in touch…

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Thank you, Paul, for your excellent comments. I confess I laughed out loud with the Athena and Zeus analogy. I agree wholeheartedly that creativity is a mystical experience that comes from an inner prompting that seems to material from a nebulous. I love hearing a reading because it brings a different perspective through nuances and phrasing. I want to look more deeply into the link between music and poetry. Now, that would be an excellent podcast conversation. Hmmmm…..

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      1. A 3 way conversation between you Mary Jo and Klausbernd, would be illuminating as you would each bring different persepctives. There is so much in the subject of poetry that is crying out for exploration- iambic rhythms- da dum da dum ecohing the human heart beat, Druid education, magic spells pronounced in rhyme, 18th century poets as popstars, right up to modern day where their places were taken by actual pop stars (who themselves may now be in decline as a phenomena) after all what is Rap music but Rhythm And Poetry something so fundamental it has been haunting man from the first campfires. Whatever you chose to say it would be as mind expanding as an afternoon with Timothy Leary and a bowl of porrige made from Morning Glory seeds!

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Hip hop is definitely a revival of poetry. There are some excellent lyricists who have helped revive poetry writing and recitals or “slams” and “jams.” Some of the better artists have levels and layers of meaning that keep one engaged, just like fine art. It’s a musical form very heavy on rhythm and rhyme.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. Paul, your comment about poetry that often appears dead on the page zinging to life when read aloud is particuarly apparent now with people posting poetry and then reading it aloud. I’ve always been fascinated by the oral tradition as the communication medium for history for so many centuries. It’s really quite remarkable when you think about it!

      Liked by 4 people

  8. Excellent interview and interesting exchange with Mary Jo’s background and progression into poetry. One of so many backgrounds that draws different people for different reasons into the rather insulated, and even somewhat lonely world of poetic scribbles. Lonely for knowing that our poetic writing world will forever reach a limited audience per se, as to its early days when poetry was the main language communications. Félicitations, Mary Jo, and you too Rebecca for your conductor style and remarkable abilities!

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    1. In a recent conversation with Sarah and Frances about cursive writing, my attention was drawn to the art of letter writing which seems to have become relegated to archival outreaches. While I LOVE technology, we have become attached to speed and quick exchanges. With the choice between e-mail, and what some have termed, snail-mail, people prefer quick. And then I read that what people really need is face-mail. During these past months, we have been bereft of face-to-face discussion (I don’t consider Zoom face-to-face). What has come out of this “pause” is a return to reflection and creativity. Poetry is becoming a staple in the blogging community, thanks to Mary Jo and your efforts. Several years ago you sent me an article on Jane Hirshfield that I have kept close at hand as I continue exploring poetry. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jane-hirshfield-poetry_n_6896864. Thank you for listening in and for your comments, Jean-Jacques.

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    2. Thank you, Jean-Jacques for acknowledging the various ways we come to poetry. Having taken a different path in life from career or professional poetry, it has been rather an avocation for me. I get to share the (mostly) joys expressed in my poems within the blogging community. As you’ve
      noted elsewhere, there’s no telling what our scribbling will effect. Who can predict or measure that!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Good question as to who can, tho to predict and or measure effect, both be tall orders. Save off the cuff statements of presuming grandrecognition of one’s work being worthy of success. Hard to imagine this, yet without mentioning names, real qualified critiques are out there as we both know.
        I’ve been scribbling in the poetic medium for more years than I wish to admit, but as of this day, I’ve written a couple of thousand plus poems, with a 1st proof for book number seventeen out in a few days. Despite all this I find it hard to call myself a poet, and surely not a professional if such a term exists with poetry. Maybe knowledgeable researcher, par excellence, Rebecca Budd can do it!
        Keep on trucking Mary Jo, the road you chose is surely the right road!

        Liked by 3 people

    3. Jean-Jacques, I do think that the internet has provided a wide audience for poetry. (Although the social scientists would caution me against committing confirmation bias!)

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  9. What a lovely discussion of poetry. I so enjoyed how thoughtful Mary Jo is about poetry and that she shared how a bit of inspiration mulls in the head and heart and becomes a poem. I read a lot of poetry aloud, and it was wonderful to hear Mary Jo talk about that aspect of poetry. To me, some poems beg for a voice and aren’t fully experienced unless the sounds of the words and rhythms of the lines are heard. A beautiful post ladies. ❤

    Liked by 5 people

  10. This was so good that I am going to come back and listen to it again a second time. I love how she shared her process of writing poems and brought in the spiritual dimension. A poem is foremost about our feelings. I absolutely loved the winter poem collection. So beautiful. Her words do sing in our hearts long after a reading.

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    1. Linda, my thought was that the conversation needs a second listen and needs to be written as well. If I taught poetry, this conversation would be an assignment with follow-up discussion questions.

      Liked by 4 people

  11. Mary Jo, I enjoyed your insightful comments about poetry so much! What was particuarly gratifying was that you answered the question I posed to you several months ago: what is the difference between poetry and prose broken up into lines. I’m so thrilled that you were able to answer the question that has been nagging at me for so long–and you answered it by means of the writing process–even better!!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thank you, Liz. When you posed that question, my immediate thoughts were discarded as too subjective. It felt so presumptuous an attempt, riddled with personal taste and prejudice, so I let it go. Thank you for noticing what I failed to see as an answer. I remain convinced my process and opinions remain tinged with subjectivity, but any attempt to define objectively the difference between prose and poetry is likely to suffer likewise. Rebecca is an astute host.

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  13. Dear Mary Jo, dear Rebeca,
    I a sorry that I am that late but I was that busy with preparing a TV programme and something about AI in literature as well.
    Your podcast inspired me very much. And you, Mary Jo, quoted it at the beginning poetry is the love of words. That’s it! It’s a minimalistic form of expression. For me as a reader, the ideas it wants to express are secondary I am fascinated by how something is expressed.
    I know from the Nordic and central European tradition of the poetry of the middle ages it was a help to remember the texts of the sagas and an epos much better. It was born at the beginning of the oral tradition.
    Thank you very much for your talk
    Klausbernd 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for you insightful comments, Klausbernd. There is so much of the oral tradition to be explored. How does the story remain intact as it moves through the generations and centuries. Having always lived in a world of letters and written words, I understand the concept of oral tradition, but have never experienced the reality of stories preserved orally. You have given me much to think about!!

      Liked by 2 people

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