Thank you to a poet who’s dear to me, the wonderful author, teacher and nurse Paula Marie Coomer (Blue Moon Vegetarian, Dove Creek, Nurses Who Love English), for inviting me to reflect on some questions about my writing as part of “international writing process blog tour.” The blog tour involves going from blog to blog to promote a book or do an interview.

1.  What are you working on?

I recently completed a chapbook length manuscript that mixes new and older poems, and am looking to find a publisher for it.   I’ve been writing new poetry relating to ideas on work, music, nature, industry, spirituality and relationships, as well as processing several unfinished drafts and journal entries.

I’m the poetry editor of the literary online and print journal Cabildo QuarterlyI select poetry submissions and write reviews for it. Editor Michael T. Fournier and I publish new poems and short stories, as well as music & book reviews in CQ.

I’m also engaged in activities that nurture my writing–gardening, hiking, reading, playing music, spending time with friends, & I continue to do public readings to share my poetry collection on this borrowed bike (Three Rooms Press 2013).


2. How does your work differ from others of its genre? 

I think my writing is unique because of my unique history and background. I grew up in Spokane, Washington and the earth was one of my first teachers–the river, trees, rocks, animals, hills, and mountains.  Walt Whitman and Jim Morrison were two of the first poets I admired. I later moved to reading the beats and poets from outside the USA: Chinese, Japanese, Native American, Latin American, African, and Indian poets. There are now books by Carolyn Kizer, Pablo Neruda, William Stafford, Martín Espada, and Patrizia Gattaceca on my coffee table. I lived in Old Town, Maine for the past seven years and was deeply inspired by the beautiful landscapes, wildlife, and Wabanaki people there.   Now living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’ve been writing more about the city—the fringes of it and wild within it. My poems are often free verse and nonlinear and involve themes of nature, love, music, journey and empathy, and use sounds & images to evoke feelings and tell stories.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I like poetry as a way of singing and exaltation.

Writing is therapeutic for me; it’s centering and humanizing, a way to check in with my feelings, senses, experiences, spirituality, dreams, and everyday happenings. All the places I’ve been, people I’ve known, music I listen to, and books I read get incorporated.

Like any art form, poetry can nurture the spirit and change the way we think of the world. I feel like poems can be powerful tools for promoting justice and healing, and wish to write poems that bear witness to the world while acknowledging beauty, gratitude, compassion, and the divine. By invoking chants, praise, and images of renewal, growth, sustainability, and peace, I hope that in some way my poems will promote wholesomeness for the land, water, animals and people.


4. How does your writing process work?

Sometimes the beginning of a poem comes in a rush of inspiration and release of lyrical phrases and images, often right after riding a bicycle, charged from a vivid encounter that connects with life as a whole. More often my process of writing poetry is much slower. I think it starts by studying other poets and authors, listening to music, birds, the wind, and people, and through being open to connections that occur in everyday life. I continuously record observations, notes, and musings by hand in my journal. Then I type out some of what I’ve written in the journal and shape it into poetry. I have many electronic drafts in process. This blog helps me work through some of my drafts.



Continue the International Blog Tour with Alan W. King.  Alan is a poet, journalist,  teacher, great person, and author of the excellent poetry collection Drift.  He lives in the DC metropolitan area and writes about art and domestic issues on this blog. Professionally, he’s currently both a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal. He is a Cave Canem Fellow, an alumnus of the VONA Workshops sponsored by Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, and a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. He’s a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and was also nominated twice for a Best of the Net selection.


Review: Nurses Who Love English by Paula Marie Coomer


Paula Marie Coomer is a nurse and writer who uses poems as balm.  Her latest collection of poetry Nurses Who Love English gives a diverse coalescence of lyric story and song: a soundtrack to a personal history that traces American landscapes of ghosts, rivers, mountains, healers, wanderers and the divine.  The language in these poems feels authentic, giving the sense of passing through forest roads and being let into secrets near campfires, in fields and in diners.

The poems range stylistically from couplets to syllabics to found poems, all containing imagery of earth, dream, memory, presence and desire.  Coomer’s use of the prose poem is notably musical and enchanting:

“He carves us pitch for better spark and hotter kindling to knit old times with folks he doesn’t even know.  The fire keeps you and I tippling Glenlivet and telling serendipity tales long after he drives into the October dim.

Brook trout with strawberry bellies, fins dipped white-edged, trimmed like frosting, leave Strawberry Lake by the scores to spawn, thick enough to walk across the fingers of the delta.  I think it’s a miracle and accuse you: you led us here because humans need to see miracles now and again.”  – from“Strawberry Lake’s Photo Album”

One of the most compelling aspects of Coomer’s poetry is the surprising and spiritual glimpses into human relationships.

Nurses Who Love English offers current social commentary, like in “Polar Bear SOS,” which gives stark and realistic visions of polar bears drowning in the melting polar icecap, and in “A New Poetry,” where the luck of a few people is juxtaposed with the destruction of others, and the raven’s song has the final say.  While using art to imitate the life of now, Nurses Who Love English keeps hold of a well-rooted foundation capable of transforming the heartbreak of loss and war with beauty and love.

The book showcases other types of transformation as well.  In “On Leaving Home” the narrator describes boldly breaking free of her Indiana homeland at a young age, and how the place “never said, daughter, why don’t you/come on home, now, you hear?   It just let me/go.  It let me take my satchel and book bag/and follow the creek out of the woods, down/and out of my holler.”  Here the narrator recognizes the need to spread her wings in order to survive, yet she is pulled by a telepathic message from her Aunt Imogene, “Smart girls don’t drill holes in the water bucket.”  The poem ends.  Such unsentimental telling is a Paula Marie Coomer signature, seen also in the Americana traveling poem that comprises her chapbook Road.

Coomer’s poems show us how to meld into our surroundings, which in turn become us, and give us the wisdom to love trees, sip water straight from the well, and listen to birds give blessings, “Safe journey earth daughter.”


Review by Lisa Panepinto

Originally published at: cabildoquarterly.tumblr.com