Interview: Amy George

Posted on January 24th, by nicholas in contributors, creativity, interview, poets, rumination, theology, vocation, writing. No Comments

Interview: Amy George

{an interview with poet, Amy George.}

when you picture someone reading your poetry, how do you see them? what do they think about, wear, and do? or, maybe a better way to say it: who do you write for? and how do you see your writing nourishing others?

In my mind, they are Christian young adults and older adults, both ministers and regular Joes. They are contemplative and love a good cup of coffee or tea, a walk outdoors, and a little time to themselves.

They love the Psalms as much as I do.

how do you use poetry as a practice for spiritual exploration, discipline, or growth? can you offer any practical advice or sure-fire practices for folks interested in allowing writing to inform their spiritual discipline?

Poetry is reactionary for me. It’s spiritual exploration and growth. It helps me to explore characters in the Bible, passages that fly out at me and speak to where I am at. It helps me to probe my own thoughts on how I relate to God and His word. It helps me in realizing every day that the Bible is living and active.

The best advice I can offer is just to write: when you read a passage and feel God speaking to you, write it down. Don’t worry about being fancy; if you don’t have raw material to work with, then nothing else matters. If you’re mentally reacting to a passage in the Bible, write that initial reaction down; that’s the pure substance…everything else follows that.

when you approach your desk, journal, computer—where ever it is you tend to create—what are some of the processes you use? what’s going through your mind? tell us about your habits of writing, no matter how quirky, mundane, strange, or small.

I keep a journal of phrases and thoughts I have. I write down any piece of inspiration at the time it hits; later, I can fluff it out into a full poem. I keep that journal close by when I create. I also recycle parts of poems that I think failed; if there’s a good piece, I’ll save it for later and see if I can rework it.

I want a cup of coffee, a cleared off desk, and lot of quiet. Natural sunlight helps, too. Some people can write in coffee shops, but I need to be able to hear myself think and concentrate on the words. Often, I read aloud what I’ve written after I write it to ensure the flow and musicality of the language.

when you go to revise work, how do you typically go about it? are there best practices you follow? give some wise instruction for those of us ready to get cracking on revision!

I read the poem as a whole and then the lines individually.

I make sure each word matches the overall tone of the poem that I’m trying to convey. Word choice especially counts in poetry, where your work is condensed!

I check for strong visual images and try to minimalize adjectives that are vague or subjective. (For instance, I don’t want to say something is “beautiful” because “beautiful” is a relative term; I want to make sure I’m describing the beauty.)

what’s the best advice you can give to a person just beginning to write, struggling to write, or feeling stuck? what’s something you wish someone had told you starting out?

Keep at it. Consistency is key. The more a person writes, the more they experience and grow.

Also, read twice as much as you write. This takes time to get used to, but it is some of the most valuable advice I’ve been taught. When we start writing, we often emulate those we admire until we get our own writerly feet under us. Exposure to quality writing helps us to assess what we like and what we want to produce.

would you like to share a poem you’re working on or have recently finished and comment on how it was written in light of the comments above? if so, please do so below…

This poem is called “The Fisherman,” and it is part of my collection, Desideratum, which is currently in its reserve sales period (until November 9th!). The poem came as I was thinking about Peter, his life and impulsive personality. It came to me over a series of days. I revised for parallel structure in phrases and wanted it to have a gentle, contemplative tone. I wanted to craft something visual for the reader, that showed Peter’s redemption and how it mirrors our own stories. We are all, at times, passionate followers, doubters, betrayers, but Jesus sees the beauty and frailty in us and loves us still.

“The Fisherman”
~I Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139:16~

In his world, Peter didn’t
amount to much,
bent over his task,
casting a dirty net
into unpredictable shifting depths.

Reeking of salt and fish,
everyone knew when he
came to town,
grimy hands and
sea-matted hair.

Neither he nor his brother knew
anything about temple protocol
or addressing kings.
Common as the dirt which
covered their sandals,

they expected little.

Yet, Jesus saw fire
behind Peter’s eyes, as he watched
the man and his brother,
wading to shore, pulling in
their boat and morning’s catch.

The Lord watched Peter
in the way He sees us all,
the way we cannot comprehend.
He heard the crow of a rooster
long before the breaking of bread.

He saw Peter preaching to thousands
words not conjured up in his own mind,
He saw the healing in his shadow…
watched Peter’s feet climbing out of a boat
to walk a path his mind could not map out.

He saw Peter’s beginning and end,
the faltering lips set ablaze by altar coals,
the rough hands that would be stretched
across wood, the beautiful sacrifice
of a life well lived, one with no regrets.

If we knew
what He knows about us,
we would all drop our nets,
forgo vainly grasping to embrace
the opinions of others,

and follow Him, too.


Amy L. George is the author of The Fragrance of Memory (Amsterdam Press, 2010), Sacred Fires and Ebullient Flames (Red Ochre Press, 2011), and Desideratum, which is forthcoming in January 2013 from Finishing Line Press. Her poetry and writings have been published in journals such as MiPoesia, Word Catalyst Magazine, Jones Av., The Foliate Oak Online and others. She and her husband live in North Texas where they both teach English at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie.

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