Sharon Rhutasel-Jones is a talented poet from right here in New Mexico. Her writing is tight and jam-packed with imagery that cuts to the heart of the reader, leaving them in a quiet stillness of reflection. We had the pleasure of publishing some of her poetry in last year’s volume of Embers Igniting. All three of the poems she contributed are full of emotion, including Yield, which totals a mere twenty-three words. If you haven’t already read her work, we highly encourage you to. Check out our 2016 volume here.
Sharon was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about writing, her influences, and her love of teaching.
1. How long have you been writing, and what first interested you in pursuing it?
I’ve been writing in one way or another since my college days, but I didn’t pursue writing as a second career until near the end of my last year of teaching. I sort of fell into the whole thing because when I wrote for my students, they would sometimes say, “You should write a book.” My first book actually started with an assignment for my students that I also completed: Write a description of one of your classmates after you’ve observed him or her for a week. At the time, I had no thought of writing a book.
2. What do you write most often? Poetry or prose? Do you prefer one over the other?
These days, I’m writing more poetry, though I plan to go back to prose since I have a novel in mind. I don’t prefer one over the other. Working with each helps improve the other.
3. Do you enjoy writing certain forms of poetry over others?
Not really, though right now I’m concentrating on haiku, haibun, and cherita.
4. Your poem Yield in the 2016 volume of Embers packed so much substance into so few words. How do you achieve that?
All poetry is about both feeling and seeing. Almost anything I observe is a potential subject. Yield is about an incident I saw unfold one day as I was headed to the growers’ market.
5. There’s some beautiful New Mexico imagery in your poem Desert Lovers. What about New Mexico inspires you?
6. Do you sometimes write nonfiction as poetry?
To me, all writing is a form of poetry in the sense that the best prose is filled with imagery and poetic devices. Recently, I’ve had a persona poem, Padre Martinez Goes to Heaven published in an anthology called Bearing the Mask. In it, Martinez narrates the story of his conflict with Archbishop Lamy, the priest who built the cathedral in Santa Fe and who ultimately excommunicated Martinez for going against him.
7. Who are some of your favorite writers, and how have they influenced your work?
Shakespeare, of course, and T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Levi Romero—for poetry, and Barbara Kingsolver as well as all the Pulitzer winning novelists. I recently decided to read all the ones I hadn’t read, a good decision to be sure. Though I disliked this 1916 choice, The Sympathizer. I can see no reason for the choice except the current revival of interest in Vietnam. Currently, I’m reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao from which I’m learning all sorts of wondrous things about writing.
8. Are you currently working on any projects?
I’m working with a group of women at a halfway house who want to learn about writing poetry. We hope to publish a chapbook.
9. Do you have any creative outlets outside of writing? If so, how do they influence one another?
I love to garden, read, and play the piano, all of which provide subject matter for writing projects.
10. When you’re not writing, what can you be found doing
Along with the things I’ve mentioned in numbers 8 and 9, I enjoy hanging out with my husband and cats in our yard. I also love to dance.
11. You were a teacher for over fifty years. What was your favorite thing about teaching?
The absolute best thing was interacting with my students, some of whom are now among my best friends.
12. Do you have any pre-writing rituals and/or a certain time of day you prefer to write?
Not really, I just write something each day. I often write in my head as I’m walking or gardening.
13. What advice would you give new writers, either about the craft or publishing?
Write, write, write—never let a day pass without writing something no matter how you feel. Doing so is a sure cure for so-called writer’s block.
For more about Sharon, see her website.
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