Our featured client, Donna James, proves it’s never too late to become a published writer! Now in her 70s, Donna returned to poetry after years of academic writing, and is an emerging poetic voice. A psychotherapist who has spent thirty-five years working with couples and individuals, Donna gives voice to the many complicated stories of the human psyche through her poetry. Her writing has been published in The Cape Rock, Carbon Culture Review, The Courtship of Winds, and Crack the Spine—just to name a few!
Read on and watch the video to hear how Writer’s Relief has helped Donna become a published poet!
In Donna’s Own Words
I’ve heard it said that if you haven’t begun writing poetry by the time you’re an adolescent, you shouldn’t ever bother to pick up the pen. It won’t come as second nature and you won’t have time to get better at it. You won’t develop the habits of discipline or the skills of craft.
But writing poetry is a way of thinking, using language as a tool of discovery. Much like a psychotherapy patient, you begin by saying what’s on your mind. If you have a good listener, you are likely to find yourself saying thoughts or feelings you didn’t know were there.
As a writer, you imagine writing to a reader—a receptive ear. But it could be an ear that is skeptical or distracted. You want to make your case so it lands with force. What you say enters the ears and eyes, stimulating thought and feeling in someone else. If you’re skilled, it may even induce a body response—an urge to move, a quickening of the heart. How can it ever be too late to learn how to do that?
What little I wrote as a child and as a young adult I put aside for psychology, giving myself over to the study and practice of therapy. I returned to poetry late and now I “language” my way into age. I probe its ravages, its pressures to adjust and surrender. Its insistence that if I am to say anything about me and about a world that both nourishes and aggravates, now is the time to do it.
Still, after enjoying my return to writing poetry, I felt like publishing was another important piece. But there was no way that I had the energy, the stamina, or the interest to do the homework that I needed to do to figure out where these poems were going to find a home.
Then a friend reminded me about Writer’s Relief. I had heard about it before, but now I needed the help. I needed the structure of being on a schedule for writing and submitting. So Writer’s Relief has been my way of helping myself create that structure, and it has also put me in contact with a number of journals and editors who find my work interesting and who have wanted to publish it. Writer’s Relief is a great way to get started on the path to getting published, and I highly recommend it.
More About Donna
Donna’s writing has also appeared in GNU Journal, Kyoto Journal, Paragon Press, Poydras Review, SLAB, Slag Review,Secret Histories: Stories of Courage, Risk, and Revelation (edited by Brenda Peterson, Salish Sea Writers 2013), and Vox Poetica.
The other art form Donna practices is ikebana, a type of Japanese flower arrangement. Dating back to the 7th century, it’s a meditative practice akin to the Japanese tea ceremony. She’s attracted to its ephemeral nature and how it teaches her to prune and simplify line and mass—great skills to apply to writing poetry. Donna has a PhD in clinical psychology and an MA in English literature. She spends her money on art, clothes, food, and books—she’s always reading at least five at once!