Interview with Carole Mertz, Author of Color and Line (and poetry collection giveaway!)

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Today, I am excited to introduce you to an incredible author who just released a book of ekphrastic poetry and prose poems. She's here to talk about her new book Color and Line and share her writing journey with us.

Color and Line, Carole Mertz’s 2021 poetry collection, presents ekphrastic poems, and other poems of various literary references in formal poetry and free verse. Her ekphrasis treats some well-known paintings, such as Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” Van Gogh’s “La Guinguette,” and Pippin’s lesser known “The Domino Players.” Mertz’s prose poems present colorful essays and vignettes, telling little stories that record her deeply emotional responses to the artwork. Keats Epigraphs add artistic cohesion to the three sections of Color and Line

Carole Mertz, graduate of Oberlin College with a concentration in music and fine arts, is Book Review Editor at Dreamers Creative Writing, and Editorial Assistant at Kallisto Gaia Press. She served as member of the Prize Nominations Committee at The Ekphrastic Review, was a judge (in formal verse) of the 2020 Poets and Patrons in Illinois International Poetry Contest, and advanced reader for WNBA’s 2018 poetry contest. Her literary work is published in such journals as Arc Poetry, CutBank, Into the Void, Main Street Rag, Muddy River Poetry Review, Society of Classical Poets, The Bangalore Review, and World Literature Today. Carole is a reader for Mom Egg Review where many of her reviews appear. She is the author of the chapbook, Toward a Peeping Sunrise, Prolific Press, 2019. Her work is widely anthologized.

Find out more about Carole by visiting her website. Be sure to also add her book to GoodReads and purchase it on Amazon.

---- Interview by Nicole

WOW: First off, congratulations on your publication of Color and Line with Kelsay Books. You describe this type of poetry as being ekphrastic. Can you tell us more about what that means exactly and how it differs from other forms of poetry? 

Carole: Ekphrastic poetry is an old form that goes back to the time of Homer, if not earlier. I encountered it through my reading and especially through The Ekphrastic Review. Ekphrasis involves looking at a given piece of art (or music, or sculpture, or other forms of artistic creation), and allowing it to speak to you. When you respond, in a sense you are looking both outward and inward. Outward, in order to see as much as possible in the art, but inward to discover and record your response. Literally, the word ekphrasis (emphasis is on the first syllable) means “a telling out,” from the Greek. 

WOW: I love that description of that form of poetry! What draws you to poetry for your creative expression? 

Carole: I’ve thought and thought about your question and simply cannot condense my response to one brief answer. I find the variety of poetic forms and the diverse approaches to writing poetry so endlessly fascinating. Though I write mostly free verse, I’ve also done some formal verse such as sonnets, pantoums, sestinas, cinquains, and haiku. I like the challenge of trying to write with clarity and precision, yet allowing room for the unexpected mystical that may enter in. 

WOW: I completely understand not being able to answer that question in a brief answer. What are your chief poetic influences and what does the poetry community mean to you? 

Carole: I suppose the strongest influence on my sense of rhythm and form arose out of the singing of hymns from my early childhood on. My mother also taught me poems when I was a schoolgirl; these were poems she had memorized. I could sense her enduring pleasure in them. 

When I began writing poetry seriously (just about twelve years ago), I felt doors opening to a new world. In addition to writing poetry and getting published, I was also feverishly reviewing poetry collections and thereby “meeting” numerous contemporary poets, albeit indirectly, at first. I’ve since felt my community widening and now unexpectedly count some accomplished poets as personal friends. The thirty-plus years I spent in NYC placed me within a vibrant literary culture. 

As for other specific influences, I enjoy the poetry of John Keats, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Wallace Stevens. Some contemporary poets I especially admire are Lorette Luzajic, Wilda Morris, Carol Smallwood, Ada Limon, Louise Glueck, and Layli LongSoldier. 

WOW: You have some powerful influences! How did you decide which poems go into your current collection? 

Carole: For Color and Line, I knew I wanted the collection to be mainly ekphrastic. But I also had other poems, some surrealistic in nature, that seemed to belong to the collection. A case in point was “The Bequest,” the poem that derived from my experience of reading Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Another concerned an evening in which I had dinner with the poet Louis Zukofsky, now deceased. Overall, I had so much more confidence in collecting the poems for this volume, than I did when creating my chapbook Toward a Peeping Sunrise; yet oddly, that chapbook remains dearer to my heart. Some of the poems in Color and Line are exuberant celebrations, some timid retreats. These are my own definitions. 

WOW: Reviewers have said that you write with sonority and wit, and with the authority of a skilled poet. Can you share a particular poem with us, or a part of one? 

Carole: I’d like to share this cinquain. Readers will recall a cinquain uses 2 syllables in the first line, 4 in second, 6 in third, 8 in fourth, and 2 in the last. 

If I
view birds beneath 
the tree out front, my mind 
soon sees boats sailing aloft a 
green breeze 

These I 
see as freedom 
to explore unknown sites, 
their histories revealing new 

As you see, a cinquain need not use rhyme.

WOW: I love it! It's so thought-provoking. What have you learned about yourself as a writer that has surprised you? 

Carole: My answer—how long it took me to give myself permission to become a poet! And this I offer as advice to new writers—recognize that desire within yourself, acknowledge it will require effort and persistence, give yourself permission to do it, and then do it! (I offer that as a gentle imperative with a non-literary smiley face attached.) I also think it’s beneficial to place yourself in the company of other writers, knowing that those with inspired diligence feed inspiration to others. It’s a give and take. I’ve drawn countless buckets of inspiration from the well of inspiration at WOW! Women on Writing.

WOW: I love your advice and it's something I need to hear as well. Thank you so much for your time today and best of luck on your book! 

Find out more about Carole by visiting her website. Be sure to also add her book to GoodReads and purchase it on Amazon.

***** Book Giveaway Contest *****

To win a copy of the book Color and Line by Carole Mertz, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on June 17th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Angela Mackintosh said...

What a wonderful interview! Thanks for conducting it, Nicole. :)

Carole ~ I enjoyed the cinquain poem you shared and your explanation of ekphrastic poetry. :) I recently started dipping my toes into poetic waters with prose poetry and free verse. I think you're right about permission and just doing it! Congratulations on your new book. The cover is beautiful.

Margo Dill said...

I love Carole! (Hi Carole) I have read your poetry before, and I am always a big fan. It's so fun to read more about your work again.

Carole Mertz said...

Angela, it's such an honor to appear here at WOW! Women on Writing. I've learned much from your site. Chiefly, it has helped me remain dedicated to my craft, even though you stress essay and fiction over poetry. Often the posts at The Muffin have been inspiring for me.

Carole Mertz said...

Margo, as ever, it's wonderful to have your support, to read about your publications, and to journey along on this writing path, with all of its struggles and rewards!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Carole--I know this is not the first time you've been featured on WOW's page. Congratulations on your book. My students have been part of an ekphrastic anthology--there was a local reception, and they were treated like the VIPs they were. I've seen how powerful the combination of art and writing is. Bravo, Carole!

Carole Mertz said...

Sioux, it's so kind of you to comment. I have to congratulate you on your timely release of your Tulsa story. I look forward to reading it. WOW has definitely helped me promote my writing and has gained me some wonderful friends!

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