Red-winged and loud my field this morning suddenly full of them. Clinging to mullen stalks and singing from the snow-battered stems of field grass, the gray skeletons of poke. Everyway I look there’s no escape from blackbirds, shaking the air with their sirens, flashing their wing-bars like warnings. Get ready your heart, here comes Spring - "I Asked For A Poem, But Got Blackbirds" by Amy Newday
Shelbyville poet Amy Newday is just one of the poets in a reading on Monday called “Out of Town and Gown,” which features three poets from the Kalamazoo area, and three more from farther afield. Besides Shelbyville, the out-of-town poets come from Middleville and Delton. The reading begins April 8 at 7 p.m. in the Van Deusen Room on the third floor of the central branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library. Newday says she wrote her first poem as a young child.
“My folks were dairy farmers, and when I was seven I was allowed to pick a calf to be my very own pet cow," she says. "And I just loved her so much that I wrote a poem for her. And, then I had to read it to my whole family and they were supportive and excited for me. But, that process of creation was, well it was somehow estatic.”
But now, Newday says writing poetry is also somewhat scary for her.
“Because I think for me it’s always entering the unknown in some way, or questioning myself or questioning reality," says Newday. "I’m almost never just recording something that I already know. It’s about trying to figure out what this life is all about. And, that’s hard.”
Friends of Poetry’s Elizabeth Kerlikowske is one of the organizers of Monday’s reading. As a poet herself, Kerlikowske sometimes compares poets to comedians.
“We say things that other people think, but don’t say," Kerlikowske says. "And people love to identify their own thoughts said through someone else because it’s comforting to think that your thoughts are not all that weird, that other people think that way. Or, you may be led to see something in a new light.”
Amy Newday says sharing poetry with an audience or other writers is a crucial part of the entire process for her.
“That’s one of the things about the writing life. It is a solitary activity, but then once you’ve done that internal processing and initial work there is this impulse to want to share it with someone else and get their feedback," she says. "That sort of encourages you, or at least it encourages me, to go back inside, go back to the solitary space and dig a little deeper.”
Newday works in the Writing Center at Kalamazoo College. It’s a place for student and faculty writers to share and learn from one another.
“The thing I love about teaching is that I get to pose questions to my students that I don’t know the answer to,” says Newday.
She adds that because everyone’s creative process is different, teaching keeps her on her toes.
“Because what I think is, to help another person enter their own creative process…I can’t just tell them what I know," Newday says. "My relationship with my own creativity is not a template for someone else. So, the best thing I can do is pose them questions that are going to help them enter their own relationship with their creativity.”