Kenneth P. Gurney. Tell us how you started in poetry. What age?
Gayle Lauradunn. I’ve been writing “poems” since about 9 years old. At about age 4 my grandmother gave me a book of poetry for children (I’ve since passed it on to my granddaughter, ragged though it is from use). My father recited Robert Service poems to me. He was an uneducated man so I don’t know where he learned them. My mother read fairy tales and heavily rhymed poems to me.
KPG. What is your favorite breakfast?
GL. An egg scrambled with red onion and zucchini, fruit, and almond butter sprinkled with cinnamon, green tea.
KPG. Does your university degree influence your writing of poetry and how?
GL. My undergraduate degree is in English Literature. But the program was very narrow and formal in what was offered. I found much of the required poetry to be of little interest. But, it is where I discovered Blake whose work had a huge influence on my writing. My doctorate is in education. For my dissertation I created a curriculum for high school students using 20th century U.S. poetry to teach about gender, class, and race.
KPG. Is there any endeavor that you are passionate about outside of poetry? How does it enrich you?
GL. My passion is an arts based curriculum for pre-k through 12th grades. Everyone can learn through the arts, so then no child is left behind. I’ve witnessed near miracles happen with children who could not read or do math, come alive with those skills through the arts. I mean everything from poetry to painting to theatre. Think of all the math they learn from having to design and create a stage set or costumes! And, in order to do those things, they have to read. Think of the history they have to learn to do it right. It’s endless what can be accomplished through the arts. My other passion is the environment, anything about preserving our planet.
KPG. Tell about one of your favorite poetry experiences.
GL. I have two that stand out for me. One a long time ago and the other just last week. In 1974 I was the co-organizer of the First National Women’s Multicultural Poetry Festival. It was a 5-day event held at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. People came from all over the country. We scheduled 3 readings a day and had from 200-300 in attendance at each one. Incredibly intense and exciting.
The second experience occurred first in 2015 and recently. In 2015 three of my poems were included in an exhibit curated by the library at the University of Puget Sound, “Dirt? Scientists, Writers, and Artists Reflect on Soil and Our Environment“. The exhibit was on display for 5 months. Then last week I learned that Evergreen State College will have the exhibit for this March and April. This time my poems will be framed and placed on walls in the library. My permission to make handouts of my poems for student discussion was requested. All this through the college’s Art and Geology Program. Kudos to these two colleges for recognizing the value of the arts to science. I wish I could be a fly on the wall during the student discussions.
KPG. Do you have a connection to the American Civil War? Relative who served? Visited a battlefield and have a story?
GL. My maternal great-grandfather arrived in Boston from England shortly before the start of the Civil War. At age 12, he joined the Union Army as a drummer boy, and ended up in Texas at the end of the war. An uncle was a Civil War buff and I visited several battlefields with him. I also visited Gettysburg and the Court House at Appomattox. I had only a few hours at Gettysburg and have always wanted to return as it is a place that requires, and deserves, a few days to walk the whole area. Heartbreaking to think what it took to preserve our country.
KPG. If you could place a magic wand and place a poetry book into every high school English classroom as required reading, which one would it be and why?
GL. William Blake’s collected works. He not only was a master of poetic craft (as it was in his day) but was wild in conveying his ideas and beliefs. He had tremendous courage and did not conform.
KPG. Where was your last selfie taken? With anyone?
GL. I don’t take selfies and see no worthwhile value in them.
KPG. Recommend a poetry website that you frequent.
GL. Poetry Foundation, mostly; others occasionally.
KPG. What is your favorite national park? Why?
GL. I’ve only been to about half the national parks, but of those definitely Bryce Canyon. I love the benign sentinels that surround us there, the formations, the color of the rock, the canyon which is shallow enough for a good hike. Everything about it.
KPG. Please tell about a dream that you work toward achieving at this time.
GL. One dream is to find a publisher for my second poetry manuscript, All the Wild and Holy: A Life of Eunice Williams, 1696-1785. The other is to finish my historical novel set in 1766 in the Scottish Highlands.
KPG. If you could be present at any moment in history as a safe observer or unsafe participant, what even would you visit and why?
GL. I’ve recently read Ron Chernow’s biographies of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Our history from about 1763 through Washington’s two terms as President, is amazing. We are not taught it in school. We would not have a country if it weren’t for those two men. They had vision and had to struggle against Jefferson and others who did not want a central government. I would love to have been a spy for Washington during the Revolution.
KPG. What reoccurring themes or personal experience have you noticed in your poetry over the years?
GL. My childhood, my family, the environment, nature, love or not love.
KPG. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, or some other sweet? Red, green or Christmas on your Huervoes Rancheros?
GL. Definitely 85% dark and organic. Always green chili on the side. After all, breakfast, chocolate, and chili are the 3 basic food groups.