Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Violet at Violet Nesdoly for Roundup.
One of the things I love to do on this blog is showcase Alabama books and authors. Today it is my pleasure to welcome Glenda Slater, author of FOOLING AROUND WITH SHAKESPEARE (Negative Capability Press, 2016). These poems are FUN! They are not just for someone who knows and loves Shakespeare. They make a great introduction to him, especially as they are so easy to understand and amusing. Teachers, these poems would be great to pair with actual Shakespeare in the classroom!
First I'd like to share the Preface that begins the book:
You may be long-time lover of the Bard.
You may be youth who thinks His plays too hard.
The poems you will find within this book
Provide for you a new, irreverent, look.
They focus on the foolishness and fun,
The foibles, failings, faults of fools who run
Capriciously cavorting on His pages.
These fools may be, at times, confused with sages.
I warn those who are with His plays besot:
I'e taken liberties with place and plot.
Your entertainment is the poem's intent, so
Frame thy mind to mirth and merriment!
- Glenda Richmond Slater
Isn't that delightful?! And now I've asked Glenda to respond to a few prompts:
GS: I remember thinking, when Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns was published, how remarkable that a woman could publish her first book at the advanced age of 60! And here I am, considerably older, with my first.
Everything about Fooling Around with Shakespeare has been unexpected. When I wrote the first poem, in response to a Pensters [writing group] prompt, I didn’t even turn it in to the contest. That was “A Midsummer Night’s Scream” and I thought the judge would not take seriously a poem that rhymed, had meter, and was a bit of a parody on the play. It would be dismissed as light verse, I suspected.
The next year, the prompt was unintentionally repeated and I took the poem to my small writing group. When we had finished our session and were about to leave, I remembered it, pulled it out, asked them to listen to it and tell me if I should try to do something with it. They found it very amusing. Sue Walker, a member of the group, said, “Glenda, if you will write more of these, I will publish the book.” [note from Irene: Sue Walker is awesome like that.]
Wow, that was a surprise! A publisher! Those are hard to come by! I got to work, not knowing whether I could actually come up with enough poems for a book. I started with the plays I knew best, all of which, of course, had at least one character who behaved quite foolishly. These first poems came easily, which is what I had come to expect with my writing. The plays with which I was not as familiar were more challenging. I often found myself having to (gasp, not used to this) discard my first effort and start all over. With Anthony and Cleopatra, for example, I didn’t find the right approach until after writing three other versions. Surprisingly, it turned out that I liked the challenge, the expansion of imagination, and the growth of my bond with the characters.
Negative Capability Press does not have a stable of illustrators and I knew a lot of artists, but none who had illustrated a book. Sue and several people suggested names to me and I looked at their work and talked to a couple of them, but I felt a more whimsical approach was needed. I mentioned this at a meeting of my P.E.O. chapter and one of the members, Dale Goss Mozley, a gifted artist, said she had never done illustrations, but she would like to try. I told her I had a vague idea of simple, whimsical drawings, and they would need to be black and white. She set forth on this immediately, brought me sketches for two poems, said if they didn’t work for me, she would understand. They were so far beyond the vague notion I had in mind! I was delighted with them. I think her drawings add immeasurably to the effectiveness of the book. And each is her own idea; I only saw them when she finished.
GS: I love rhyme and meter. I love the poems. I loved writing them, I love reading them silently, I love reading them to audiences.
Getting back in touch with Shakespeare has enriched my life. I have always enjoyed the plays, both reading them and seeing them on stage. If done well, all emotions are touched. If done poorly, perhaps hard to sit through, but such fun to critique afterwards. I acted in only one Shakespearean play (Regan, in King Lear), and found my acting ability did not measure up to my oral reading, but still it was a pleasure to be a part of what was an excellent production with a perfect King Lear and a perfect Fool.
I think the book is beautifully designed by Megan Cary. I couldn’t imagine how she would handle the various shapes and various lengths of the poems. I love that it is hardback and that she used Dale’s drawings on the cover.
I have been delighted by the reception. At my readings, the audiences have been receptive, responsive and very much with me, smiling and laughing, having fun. It’s great fun to do the readings—the poems lend themselves to oral performance.
I took great pleasure in writing them. Most often, I begin a piece when the first two lines come to mind. I usually have been mulling over the project and what I think of as the poetic section of my brain has been activated, with me thinking rhymes in my head as I go about daily activities. When those first perfect (at the moment, anyway), lines pop in, I know I’d better get them down immediately; otherwise, they’re gone. It’s best to continue the poem right then if I have time. It took me about two years to write the 20 poems.
GS: It was hard waiting for the published product. Even though I knew this can take years, I did get frustrated. It took about two years from the time I turned in the manuscript to the August, 2016 launch.
The marketing process is difficult for me. I love doing the readings, but not the peripherals that are necessary.
GS: It's never too late to get started. I first joined a writer’s group when in my fifties and, at that time, wrote children’s poems. I have a group of “veggie” poems that I took to elementary schools for years: “Goobers & Tubers & Pickles & Peas.” I tried to get that published with no success, but still see it as a good possibility for a poetry book with recipes for children. Just need a recipe person!
I didn’t start writing fiction until I moved to Fairhope and joined the Pensters writing group. I do well with flash fiction and have quite a few stories compiled—many of them have done well in contests. I continue to write them.
I’ve also written a middle grade novel, set in 1949 on the Gulf Coast. The first two chapters were awarded first place in Juvenile Fiction (Alabama Writers’ Conclave contest) by Watt Key three years ago. I’m looking into publishing options for it.
I’ve published a children’s play, The Junk Food King, poems. short stories, and articles on communicating with children. Not an extensive list—marketing is not my strong point.
Thank you, Glenda, and congratulations on the fun book of poems! You are an inspiration.
Glenda Slater was born in Crosby, Mississippi, but spent most of her early life in Alabama. Currently retired, she has a B.A. (English) and M.A. (Speech and Language Pathology) from the U of Alabama, and a Ph.D. (Speech and Language Pathology) from the University of Cincinnati. She currently lives and writes in Spanish Fort, Alabama. She says, "Writing brings me joy!"