Good morning and welcome to Extra Gravy, a Harrison Bergeron Production coming to you from the glass-enclosed studios in Biscuit City, a wonderful magical land where all your dreams come true, everyone is intelligent and beautiful and has a ton of money! And it’s 72 degrees and sunny year ‘round. Our guest today is Leigh Giza, poet, Write by the Rails member, my Facebook friend, Gainesville resident, and author of Found and Lost, just published and available at Authorhouse.com.
Dan: Welcome, Leigh, to Extra Gravy, probably the world’s only virtual radio show without an audio. It’s nice to be able to talk with you!
Leigh: Thank you, Dan. I’m honored to be a guest on your fantabulous program. Please pass me the gravy.
Dan: Here! Have the whole bowl! Enjoy!
I first became aware of you as a writer when I read your poems on the Facebook page, Write by the Rails, which is an open group for local writers.
Your poems are haiku which are short (of course) but incisive and thought-provoking. You post one almost every day. Would you tell us how you got started using this form and why you like it?
Leigh: It’s funny you should ask, because I was asked this question before and I couldn’t remember how I caught the haiku fever. My sister-in-law, who also likes to write, tells me she helped me get started with it a few years ago, and since she has a much better memory than I do, it’s probably true. Haiku appeals to me because it’s short and the lines don’t have to rhyme, so I can write one fairly quickly and then spend time revising it later. I take liberties with it in that I don’t necessarily try to evoke a moment or mood in the natural world like the early Japanese haiku writers did. But I do follow the form requirements, which state that a haiku must have three lines, with the first and third line having five syllables and the second line having seven syllables. I like writing something in which I know when I’ve gotten it “right,” at least in terms of form.
Dan: How did you develop an affinity for poetry and the ability to write poetry so well, which is a difficult challenge? I know you also like Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my all-time favorites.
Leigh: Well, I’m not sure I write poetry particularly well, but I enjoy it immensely. It probably has a lot to do with the expectation that poems should be brief (compared to short stories and novels), and that works well with my very short attention span. My grandmother liked to write poems, and so did her sister, so maybe some of it’s in the genes.
As for Edna St. Vincent Millay, I am just finishing reading a collection of her sonnets and I can't say enough about them. They are awe-inspiring. And inspiring. Maybe I'll tackle sonnets when I get tired of writing haiku.
Dan: I think Edna St. Vincent Millay writes lovely poetry. She has a certain ineffable quality to her work that allows her to be elegant and realistic at the same time. And she has the coolest name in poetry.
Could you share a poem with us right now? The length doesn’t matter—we have time and space.
Leigh: I’ll share a flash poem with you. Here goes:
Red and black and blue
Are the colors of the tattoo
He drew upon her cheek
When she found the nerve to speak
In hindsight she could have walked
But she peeled off the tape and talked
Now she’s branded with a tattoo
In these bloody awful hues
Dan: What a powerful poem! And it's a "flash" poem as well. I’d like to feature one of your poems on the Biscuit City Poem of the Week next week. I think our listeners (or is it readers?) would enjoy that!
Leigh: Thanks for asking! I’d be happy to have that happen!
Dan: I’m getting a little ahead of myself. How did you learn to write, and who encouraged you?
Leigh: I’m still learning! I hope I am always learning how to write better. I think it’s a lifelong process. I really don’t have any special training -- I took standard high school and college English courses. I have loved writing ever since I got my first diary when I was about 7 years old. I had a great friend in junior high school who wrote poems and I think she inspired me to try it by sharing her work with me. I also listened to a lot of music growing up, and when I bought albums (I listened to records growing up – I’m old!) I always loved reading the lyrics on the sleeves, and I’m sure that inspired me to write poetry too. When I lived in Richmond recently, I took a poetry class that evolved into a poetry writing group, and that motivated me to keep writing and to be open to sharing my writing with others, both inside and outside the group. I am also a member of the Bull Run Adult Writers Group, which is a critique group for writers, so that I can get feedback on my writing and hopefully make it better.
Dan: And you have a book just out. How exciting! You posted a poem (with picture) about it which went,
At last I can hold
My book in my sweaty hands
It's called Found and Lost
Please tell us about your book and how you came to write it!
Leigh: A couple of years ago I was looking at my writings and realized I had written a lot of haiku and that maybe I ought to do something with them, i.e. self-publish a book. I grouped together what I hope are some of the better ones into a narrative about a couple who meet, get together, and break up (original, huh?), and then I asked a friend of mine who’s a photographer, Sarah Kane, if she wanted to take some photos to illustrate the story. Thankfully she said yes. My book would not be what it is without her beautiful photography.
Dan: Are you planning a poetry reading in the future? I think that would be cool! I love to go to poetry readings!
Leigh: I am trying to work up the nerve to do a reading in front of people. I think I’d enjoy it, but I’m nervous about doing it.
Dan: I hope you’ll do a reading soon. It’s terrifying but people are very affirming once you take the risk. Although I read something to a group one time that I had found always made people laugh. A lot. For some reason no one laughed even once during this reading. So I slunk away from the podium when I was finished and got in my car and left. I didn’t even stay for the shrimp appetizers and I love shrimp.
So, how does your husband regard your writing? Does he give you special treatment because you are a writer?
Leigh: My husband, John, is very supportive of my writing, so long as I don’t write anything derogatory about him.
Dan: What can you tell us about your day job?
Leigh: I work part-time at a library. I’ve worked in libraries for many years now. It’s a hard habit to break. Kinda like writing.
Dan: I see you graduated from the University of Maryland. Would you tell us about your time at UMd? (Go, Terrapins!)
Leigh: It’s a little hard to recall a lot about it now, since I graduated thirty years ago! I was pretty nerdy back then (some would say I still am), so I didn’t do a lot of partying or socializing. I was a substitute d.j. at the college radio station, WMUC. That was fun!
Dan: About the only thing I remember about college is reading and writing papers. I had a radio show on WESU-FM, with 15 watts of blazing power.
I want to thank you for being with us on Extra Gravy from the Biscuit City studios today. I wish you well with your writing. You’ve been a delightful guest.
We’d love to have you back sometime and we’ll look for your poems and your book.
Leigh: Thanks, Dan! The book, Found and Lost, can be bought from amazon.com and authorhouse.com.
Dan: …I have one final question. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? I would be a Brazilian rosewood tree because they are beautiful and their wood is used in high-end guitars.
Leigh: Didn’t Barbara Walters used to ask people that question at the end of her TV interviews with celebrities? I wouldn’t be a tree because then I’d have to cut myself down to make paper for my writing tablets, and that would hurt.
Dan: That’s a very post-ironic answer. And, yes, Barbara Walters ended her interviews with it. It’s goofy and I like it!
We’ve been talking with Leigh Giza, poet, wife, library worker and local resident.
This has been the Local Writer of the Week feature, brought to you on the Extra Gravy show on the Biscuit City Network. The Local Writer of the Week is a Harrison Bergeron Production and is sponsored by Haiku Brand Soy Sauce. For soy sauce that’s poetry in your mouth, pick up some Haiku Brand Soy Sauce. Soon you’ll be speaking in five or seven syllables, depending. Put Haiku Brand Soy Sauce on all your food and enjoy that honest to goodness taste of the east in haiku and sauce form. Remember, when life is dull and on the non-poetic side, you need Haiku Brand Soy Sauce. Available at fine grocery stores and book sellers everywhere! That’s Haiku Brand Soy Sauce. Get some! You’ll be so glad you did!
This is Dan Verner, bidding you a fond adieu from the glass-enclosed nerve center of the Biscuit City Network until next time when we’ll talk to another local writer.