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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Marie Sheppard Williams passed away December 14th, 2015 at 84 years of age from cancer.  

I interviewed her last October on the subject of writing poetry.  Here is her typically atypical advice for our authors at Grey Sparrow Journal.


DS: Marie, what poets do you enjoy?

MSW: I imagine you want the truth, but it won't please you.  The truth is, I rarely read poetry.  I take classes from time to time, but none of those poets stick with me the way the old ones, the now-dead ones do.  As for a favorite poet living now, I like Robert Bly a lot--not as a person, but as a poet.  I like Maxine Kumin, if she's still alive.

DS: Do you have a favorite poem?

MSW: Yes, I do have a favorite current poem--Thomas Smith's poem about 9/11, don't recall the title, but it is just a knockout.  But my favorite poems of all time would include many by Yeats and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and one by Goethe.

DS: What are your thoughts on the contemporary scene?

MSW:  I think the trend in modern poetry has been towards poems that are pretty inaccessible, which I don't much like at all.  But recently I saw that trend being reversed to some extent--and I like that reversal.

DS: Do you prefer writing poetry or prose?  Or both? 

MSW:  Poetry versus prose?  Hey, what can I say, being a prose writer?  Very late in my life it occurred to me that music was the highest of the arts, and that poetry was closest to music, and therefore I should become a poet.  What the hell, people decide to become electricians and hair dressers, why not poets?  Bill Holm liked my prose a lot, but liked my poetry better--said the short length of the poem made the ideas sharper and clearer.

Carol Bly often taught excerpts from my stories as poetry.

And I can say with real conviction that prose is harder to write than poetry.  I can write a fairly decent poem in three hours, but a fairly decent short story takes me three weeks.  

Maybe you can use something here, maybe not.  If not, that's okay--Love, Marie

Grey Sparrow shall miss Marie's no-nonsense charm and poetry which garnered several awards along with two Pushcart Prizes. Thomas Smith, a poet and long-standing friend of Marie's, dedicated a poem to her for this issue, a pretty gem.  

                                                                                                                                                         -Diane Smith