Three Poets: Marsha Kay Oldham’s Truth Through “Generations”

myloves

“Won’t you please sit down for a cup of tea?
We can visit and catch each other up.”
My grandmother is so glad to see me.

When I was small, as I’d sit on her knee,
She’d gently help me hold a china cup.
“Won’t you please sit down for a cup of tea?”

The dainty china she brings as I see
hands trembling slightly as she lifts the cup.
My grandmother is so glad to see me!

Oh why have I waited so long to be
Ready to share in an afternoon cup?
“Won’t you please sit down for a cup of tea?”

Noticing how frail my grandmother seems,
I regret waiting so long to come up.
My grandmother is so glad to see me.

I smile, settling her in a chair, gently.
“Grandmother, please,” I say, taking her cup.
Won’t you please sit down for a cup of tea?”
My grandmother is so glad to see me.

~ by Marsha Kay Oldham

marsha kayMarsha Kay, when did you start writing poetry?

I actively began writing poetry about ten years ago following a total breakdown that resulted from me not totally completing the grieving process following the death of my 32 year old husband back in 1981. Therapy involved me going back to that time and finally expressing the deep pain I had experienced, but had “glossed over” in order to care for our five children (ages 9 months to 12 years).
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The rhythm is so strong in your work, what comes first to you, the rhythm or the words?

The words generally come first. Sometimes if I’m working on a certain form of poetry I get the rhythm in my head and then find words or ideas I have been waiting to use that really fit that form. My first poems (which can be found in my self-published book of poems, My Heart’s Cry) came to me in their complete form in my head before I finally put them on paper. Later, after being encouraged to attend the Enid Writers Club and from there the Don Blanding Poetry Society and Poetry Society of Oklahoma, then additional critique groups and writing clubs, I began to enlarge my knowledge of poetry forms and writing genres. I love to try new/different forms for writing poetry even if I find I am not comfortable with a particular form … it’s always good to try new things.
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Tell us about your writing process.

If I have an idea for a subject or if phrases begin running through my head, constantly urging me to make something of them, I sit down with a journal or pencil or go straight to the computer to begin writing. One night (or early morning) I wrote what I thought of as song lyrics to four different songs. Sometimes the words flow and I kind of wonder where they are coming from. Other times I get the general phrases I want to use but have to think about words and phrases that will project the central idea.
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Your poem, “Generations,” is about the cycle of parents caring for children who later care for them in their golden years. How did this poem begin? What inspired it?

This poem was actually written after my mother-in-law died in 2003. Although my children called my mother Gramma, they called their daddy’s mother, Grandmother. After she died I began thinking about the way I cared for her after my husband’s death and my own mother saying “there aren’t many daughters-in-law who would do all you do for her. You really are a blessing to her.”
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You have published widely and won numerous poetry awards. Can you share some insight on getting published with fledgling poets?

A dear friend says, “You can’t win if you don’t enter.” (Dena Gorrell) I believe that is true as well for getting published. You have to submit your poem to different venues to get it in print. Also, I like to enter contests because many judges will return your poem with critiques to help you improve that poem. I have self-published two chap books of poetry, My Heart’s Cry and Pieces of Life which contains “pieces” of different aspects of my entire life, growing up in a Christian community, as a child of the Fifties, losing loved ones in later life, etc. I have several poems published in three different anthologies of the Poetry Society of Oklahoma, The National Federation of State Poetry Society’s Encore 2010, the Piedmont Gazette, and several in the Enid News.
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Tell us about My Loves.

My Loves is a collection of 121 of my poems in different sections: “My Family,” “Holidays,” “My Country,” “My God,” “My Romances,” and “My Things,” to encompass all those different areas of my life. My family constantly provides me with ideas. My grandchildren (25) frequently do or say something that inspires a poem or that triggers a memory from my childhood. I used to write exclusively about things that actually happened. A few years ago, I began writing fictitious things as well, about the same time I began writing song lyrics. Now I really have fun writing silly limericks as well as concise forms like haiku and tankas.

Really all you have to do to get an idea is open your eyes and sometimes, you don’t even have to do that …. just listen to what your head is saying to you.

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You are about to embark on an epic journey. Who would you like to take with you Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath or Maya Angelou?

Gee, that’s a hard one.  I really appreciate much of Maya Angelou’s poetry, but I think I would choose Emily Dickinson.  She was a master of metaphor and imagery while utilizing a definite beat or tempo.  I believe she was in accordance with each of us being “masters” of our own lives.  It is always desirable to be true to yourself and never stop learning.

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