This week, I’m delighted to share with you a very lovely lady, Ms. Corrine De Winter. Her poetry has won multiple awards, including four nominations for the prestigious Pushcart Prize. I could think of no better way to introduce her to you, so I shamelessly plagiarized her biography from her web site:
Award winning poet Corrine De Winter has been nominated four times for the prestigious Pushcart Prize and is a winner of a Bram Stoker award. Her poetry, fiction, essays and interviews have appeared worldwide in publications such as the The New York Quarterly, Imago, Phoebe, Plainsongs, Yankee, Sacred Journey, Interim, Space & Time, The Chrysalis Reader, The Lucid Stone, Fate, Press, Freshwater, Sulphur River Literary Review, Modern Poetry, Doorways, Atom Mind, The Writer, The Lyric, and over 900 other publications.
She has been the recipient of awards from Triton College of Arts & Sciences, Writer’s Digest, The Esme Bradberry Award, The Madeline Sadin Award, The Rhysling Award, and has been featured in Poet’s Market 1995 through 2009. Her work is featured in the much praised collections Bless the Day, Heal Your Soul, Heal the World, Get Well Wishes, Essential Love, The Language of Prayer, Mothers And Daughters, and Bedside Prayers, now in its 18th printing.
Ms. De Winter is the author of seven collections of poetry and prose including Like Eve, The Half Moon Hotel, Touching the Wound, which sold over 3,000 copies in its first year, The Women at the Funeral (Winner of the 2004 Bram Stoker Award for Best Poetry Collection), A Dark Ride, Valentine, and Virgin of the Apocalypse, all nominated for Bram Stoker awards.
Without further ado, Corrine De Winter, in her own words:
Tell us a little about yourself and your latest collection of poetry Virgin of the Apocalypse.
I have the heart and soul of a poet always, and it’s sometimes a double edged engagement – to see sorrow and joy in everything is beautiful but often heartbreaking. I’ve been called “a strange bird” and other not so graceful descriptions, but I remember someone saying to me that they wished they could see the world through my eyes, and that meant so much. I wouldn’t alter that and hope I never have to.
Besides writing, I do other things, like my new charity for children: Small World Fund (born out of my trying to help children and families since I was a teen). I like working on movie-making with my cousin, film maker Nino Del Padre. There’s a poetry movie Recovery Part I and Recovery Part II and vampire movie Spirit & Flesh I wrote and acted in on youtube. [Note: Spirit & Flesh is not yet available on youtube. I’ll post a link when the movie is online.]
“The Virgin Mary Speaks”
The folds of her robe,
fluent statuary, say
“I come only once to be discovered.”
You have met me dancing
beneath a Spring moon,
the girl in white linen
who would not look you in the eye.
The Women at the Funeral
The imagery within your poetry is deeply erotic, yet there is no mistaking the religious undertones you sometimes intertwine in your verse. This combination of religion and desire makes your poetry more intimate. What are your inspirations for poems such as “The Virgin Mary Speaks?”
You know, it’s funny, but religion was never forced down my throat, as you might think. I mean I came from an Italian family where “Madonna” was uttered a lot, and there were pictures of Jesus in the house, but to me, even as a young girl I felt a kinship with the heavenly realm – I loved the whole Virgin Mary idea and I would write on the bathroom wall in high school “Jesus is a fox.”
I think back on that now, and think ‘who would do that?’ I’m sure a lot of kids say they feel special to Jesus, but I did feel that I had been there and walked those dusty paths with him, that he knew who I was by name. I always liked guys that resembled Jesus. Sounds silly now to me.
If you were in my house now you would see all sorts of religious things and think I was obsessed. In this room for instance there is a beautiful portrait of Madonna and child, a picture of 2 nuns digging a grave, dirt in a bottle from Jerusalem, and a perfume called “Holy Night.” There’s other things too, of course, but throughout there are religious pictures, etc.
Angel, lay on your side
With your hands beneath your head
To keep from the cold stone.
How often this fire of life
Leaves a cold prairie.
Lay quiet Angel,
And let your heart find rhythm
Where once there was only discord.
Your wings now are half-broken
And truth is a lonesome lullaby
In this song without words.
I love the poem “Lullaby;” it speaks of the terrible inner truths within ourselves that we must face alone. You could simply write of love and bumblebees, snakes in the grass, but your poetry has an unmistakable darkness in tone. You are digging for something deeper. Tell us why dark poetry? Are you trying to show us the darkness within ourselves or purge your own demons?
I think we are essentially always alone, and feel especially so in moments of sorrow and truth. I remember hearing a mother lament that her child was afraid to go to sleep because of dreams, and she could be there for so much of him, but she couldn’t go there with him, in his sleep. He had to do that alone.
Why dark poetry? I got an email from William Peter Blatty (author of The Exorcist) and was so thrilled that this master of horror liked my work – I think I knew that I was doing what I was meant for then – I had impressed him and he wanted to tell me my words were beautiful. To be complimented by such a writer – I mean, The Exorcist remains one of the greatest horror stories and movies ever to be made (in my opinion) was just fantastic.
And, I don’t like happy poetry, it’s often insipid and boring, has nothing to teach us. I think people have a hard time facing the dark side, but it is half of us, don’t you think? I’m not above writing about hopefulness, obviously, but I do tend to lean toward darker realities. When I see a snow pile I’ll think maybe there’s a dead body buried in it that no one will find until it thaws. Flowers in spring recall the resurrection, dead branches are arthritic bodies.That’s just the way I think.
Yes, I’d like to show you that there is darkness in everything, but that’s not as important as making you feel more human, more soulful, less alone, able to grasp the pain of others. Do I have demons I’m trying to purge? Interesting question. I don’t feel like I do, but maybe I am. Who are they? Maybe it’s Death that haunts me, that I look for in many situations. Maybe I’m always trying to articulate The End – make it graceful, give it a good description and reason for being, even though we really won’t know until we’re gone.
His hand is calm
on the curve of my hip,
eyes steady and level with mine.
The trembling of a smile
surfaces at the edges of his mouth.
He twirls me around
to Mozart coming in waves toward us.
He pulls me in, breath on my cheek
like warm wind against the Sphinx,
and like the scarab
at Cleopatra’s breast,
I cannot tear myself away.
Gracefully he conjures
an astonishing white bird to focus on
while the other hand
creates a sensation up my spine
(Cold incision of a fresh razor)
and then a kiss for distraction.
truth gathers red
at my feet like worms
after the rain.
The Women at the Funeral
How often do you use your poetry for stories such as this? Are these poems more difficult to write in terms of adjusting the rhythm of words to achieve the optimum effect at the end?
I think all my poems are tiny stories. I must tell you these stories with graceful, interesting brevity or why would you bother to read and finish them? The endings are of course very important. I want to leave you with something to think about – the poem always goes on, completed by the reader after he’s finished reading the poem.
The reader sums up the message and puts his own take on it. As long as they get something from reading it, I know I’ve done a good job. A good poem delivers something of humanity, creates possibilities for the reader.
You also write prose. In short story “Deviation,” you write of incest and obsessive love, but even your most violent scenes have a poetic quality that brings gentleness to dying. Tell us about your short stories and the themes you use.
Romance between 2 people is one of the most spiritual, horrific and enlightening things there are to life. Any theme that includes love is dire. Loving another has brought me to the worst and best times of my life.
When you are surrendering yourself, your heart, to another person it is the ultimate risk, the ultimate test of trust and strength. Is there anything more potentially destructive than love? It can bring you to your knees (literally) or lift you up. So yes, I have a great reverence for love and all its realms. I compare falling in love again to giving birth to another child. Mothers have said “The pain (of giving birth) was excruciating, but you forget all about it when you have another child.”
And it’s true about falling in love – you know how much you suffered, and the pain was horrendous, but it all disappears when you meet someone new who you connect with. Some people don’t ever venture to risk that pain, but how much you are losing by not stepping out.
Tell us about poets past or present who might have influenced your work or your love of poetry.
There’s many, but I’ll name just a few. I love Anne Sexton, Anna Akhmatova, Conrad Aiken, James Merrill, WH Auden, William Carlos Williams, George Barker, Muriel Ruykeyser, Denise Levertov, a lot of the poets who were popular in the 1940’s.
New poetry: Frank Bidart, Brenda Hillman, Nick Cave, David St. John. When I was younger I learned about Dylan Thomas, Adrienne Rich, Byron, Christina Rossetti, Rimbaud.
I know this is like picking a favorite child, but which of your many poems is special to you and why?
“Bad Heart” is special because it’s about my mother’s passing, which continues to be very painful. You’re right, there are a lot of special poems, and I would say they are all special in some way, but I’m going to try here to pick a few.
From Virgin of the Apocalypse, “Our Lady of Fifth Avenue” – I wrote this after a trip to NYC. It encapsulates so much and came out as graceful as the things I experienced.
“The Things of Youth are Wild Horses” – After Hollywood and all that it symbolizes, but also about America. I’m proud of the social/political poems I’ve written because I think as writers we should be speaking out about the state of affairs and giving it a human voice, even if it means that we make people uncomfortable.
As I said, I could come up with something special about all of them – each one has a story behind it, so I can’t really give a proper answer here!
Tell us about some of your upcoming projects.
Currently I’m finishing a new book of poems which will be titled Opium. I’m excited about working with the band Auto Climax Control on their song and video (part of a poem is spoken in the song “Cabin Fever” which they’re working on a video for). They have so many great songs – hopefully I can do more with them in the future.
I’m also working on a couple of screenplays, trying to find a publisher for my children’s stories, comic script and novella – as well as the poetry collection. Looking forward to having Harry O. Morris do the cover. He’s fantastic. But let’s see – often plans don’t mean anything. Nothing happens until it happens.
If you could leave us with one parting thought on poetry as an art form, what would it be?
Take the time to read good poetry – it will feed your soul. Write poems. Don’t think about who will read it and what they’ll think – if it makes you happy to write, do it for yourself. We all have experiences to share, to connect with – open up and bring them to life.
Meanwhile I will leave you with Corrine reading from her poem “You Never Thought about Hell.”