Meet the Poet

Meet the Poet: Elizabeth Gauffreau

Welcome to Meet the Poet, a Word Craft Poetry feature written to introduce you to the poets in our writing community. This is a way to get to know more about the poet and their work. Did you know many of our poets are accomplished fiction and non-fiction authors? Some of our poets are also artists, crafting their magic through watercolors or other artistic means along with the written word. There are even a few musicians in our poetic community!

At least once a month, I’ll be introducing you to the poets in our community! Grab a cup of tea or coffee, and meet the poet!

At the Free Thinker’s – Open Mic

Our guest this month is Elizabeth Gauffreau.

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a B.A. in English from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Curriculum & Assessment for Champlain College Online, where she is an Associate Professor. Her fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines and several themed anthologies. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband.

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Hi, Colleen. Thanks so much for this interview. I’m really looking forward to our chat.

I’m glad you popped in, Liz. I’ve got to ask you… How important is accessibility of your poem’s meaning? Should one have to work hard to “solve” the poem?

Thank you for asking this question, Colleen. I feel strongly (to the point of preaching and ranting) that a poem is not a cryptogram to be solved like a crossword puzzle—and should not be treated as one. Too often, K-12 education has sent students out on a symbol safari, and if they came back with a zebra instead of a lion, they got a bad grade. I also think that this approach in fact devalues poetry. For me, poetry is reserved for the human experience that simply cannot be expressed through any other genre.

Liz, I think that’s a solid way of looking at the art of writing poetry.

Yes. I like to think of each poem I write, as well as each poem I read, as an experience on three levels. The visceral experience comes first through the poem’s sensory imagery, combined with the sounds of the words and the cadence of the lines.

The visceral experience gives rise to an emotional experience, how each element of the poem and the poem taken as a whole make me feel.

The intellectual experience of the poem comes last through a metacognitive process of reflection on my own experience of the poem to gain insight into why I reacted to it the way that I did.

I also think about contextual considerations that might be relevant, such as social, historical, or biographical events and perspectives. All three experiences then give me a rich and meaningful experience of a particular poem. This is how I hope readers experience my poetry. (A tall order, I know!)

When you talk about accessibility in the context of writing poetry, what do you mean?

That said, the question of a poem’s accessibility is an important one for poets to keep in mind. For me, a poem is inaccessible when the experience the poet intended for the reader to have is not, in fact, the experience the reader had.

I’ll give you a quick example. Yesterday, I read the following erasure poem about the crisis in Ukraine: “Mir in Ukraine.” 

My initial experience of the poem was confusion and frustration because of how the words are arranged on the screen and my own difficulty with spatial thinking. Based on her contributor’s note, the poet’s intent was not for readers to come away from the poem with an experience of confusion and frustration. The poem was inaccessible to me, in other words. However, the spoken word version of the poem opened the the accessibility door, and I was able to experience the poem as the poet intended.

Liz, why do you write syllabic poetry? 

I’ll confess to being dismissive of syllabic poetry for most of my writing life, based on the mistaken belief that formal poetry, syllabic poetry in particular, would be restrictive and limiting. (This without having tried to write it or read it in any kind of depth.)

This bias (along with some other closely-held writing biases) was challenged when I began blogging a few years ago in an effort to “build an author platform.” I started following your blog and learning what syllabic poetry actually is and how it works. The more I learned about it, the more I wanted to try it for myself. The fact that you were urging me on had something to do with it as well!

Liz at Cape Elizabeth

What gave me the push to try my hand at syllabic poetry was a trip to Portland Head Light on a cold and cloudy autumn day. I realized I had never seen Cape Elizabeth with a gray color palette. All my fond childhood memories of the place were bright sun and blue water. 

Might a haiku express what I was feeling as a result of this realization? I tried it, but haiku didn’t fit. Then I tried tanka, which proved to be the perfect marriage of form and content.

Like you, I try a couple of different forms before settling on a specific form to write. I’m glad to hear that writing tanka works for you. Liz, do you use other mediums, such as photography or artwork in your poetry? What message do you want your readers to receive from this kind of collaborative effort?

Not using images to accompany poetry was another of my closely-held writing biases prior to getting involved with blogging. I thought that using images with poetry was a form of cheating, that if the words alone couldn’t paint the picture, the poem wasn’t good enough. What changed my thinking was coming to understand that blogging is in part a visual medium, with images having a specific role to play in the post, depending on the content. 

During this same time period, I also became interested in ekphrastic poetry when I wrote one for the first time based on a prompt painting. The Ekphrastic Review accepted my poem for publication.

My understanding of ekphrastic poetry is that the artwork inspires the poem, but the poem must be able to stand on its own. It was a short step from there to start exploring how an image and a poem could be completely interdependent, that you take away one and the other loses its ultimate meaning. I explored this relationship in my debut poetry collection, Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance.

Thanks so much for stopping by Liz. I look forward to reading your newest release, “Grief Songs.”

Media Connections For Liz Gauffreau

Website: https://lizgauffreau.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/egauffreau

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-gauffreau/

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18740495.Elizabeth_Gauffreau

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/egauffreau/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethGauffreau

Thanks for stopping by to meet Liz. See you next month, for another opportunity to Meet the Poet!

89 thoughts on “Meet the Poet: Elizabeth Gauffreau”

  1. A wonderful interview with Liz. I really enjoyed hearing more about her views and ideas about poetry. I share many of them. I like seeing Liz in these photos, too!

    Thanks so much, Colleen and Liz!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is a great interview Colleen. Liz is able to explain her ideas and process beautifully, but your questions led the way. I can see where she would be an excellent teacher. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful interview! Thank you, Colleen, for spotlighting Liz. She is a gifted writer of both poetry and prose. I always look forward to her work and would love to be in her classroom. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed this! It’s great to find out a bit more about Liz and now I need to bump Grief Songs up my TBR mountain. Many thanks to both of you. xx

    Liked by 3 people

  5. So great to see Liz here, Colleen. I enjoyed the interview and was so happy to read Liz’s opinion on “solving” the poem. My enjoyment of poetry is the feeling that the poem inspires. Excellent interview and choice for the month.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. HI Colleen, it is lovely to see LIz featured here. I did smile at her thoughts about syllabic poetry being limiting. I find the limitations to thought imposed by the syllable counts challenging and fun. I enjoy jiggling arounds words in a phrase until I can get the line to say what it must. I always have a plan with my poems – I like to tell a bit of a story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Robbie. My experience of writing syllabic poetry now is that for certain experiences, it’s the only way to get at the essense of the experience with just the right words.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Wonderful interview! I was of the same thinking that doing anything but free verse poetry would limit me. I was wrong there too. It now allows other sides of me to join in creating the poems. I wasn’t sold on poetry when it was taught in my earlier years in school. It felt forced and I always hated to assume what the writer really meant. I’m still not a fan of assuming. Luckily in college, I had a teacher that changed my mind about exploring poetry more than I had in the past.

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    1. Excellent! I’ve loved haiku and tanka for years now… rhyming poetry, not so much. It always seemed too contrived for me. I’m only now seeing the value in rhyme and a poetic device. It’s cool that as we get older we’re not afraid to try new things. Bravo to us! ❤️

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  8. A great interview with Liz. I love her book of poetry, Grief Songs. I have much respect for someone who can convey thoughts and feelings using the limited words of a poem, effectively. Which Liz does so well.

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  9. I LOVE your new series, Colleen – meet the poet! Brilliant idea!!! Poetry becomes more meaningful to me when I know more about the poet’s background! Many thanks for opening up new areas of exploration for me. Liz’s Grief Songs allowed me to expand my understanding of the grieving process.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. My initial experience of poetry was at school and it ended there until a few years ago as I became more involved in the blogging world and started reading some poetry…A lovely interview that gave me a better understanding of the world of poetry…Thank you both 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed eavesdropping on your conversation, Colleen and Liz – which is just what this interview felt like to me. I was particularly taken with what Liz had to say about accessibility and how listening to that particular poem ‘opened the accessibility door’. I’m a firm believer that poetry should be read out loud (proudly and loudly). Great photos of Liz, too!

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    1. Thank you for eavesdropping, Chris! The ability to record and share poetry with others is one of the great boons of the digital age. Spoken word poetry isn’t just for grimy coffee shops anymore!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Colleen and Liz,

    What a pleasure to read this interview. I think as poets and writers we all evolve overtime. For many years I wrote only free verse. But I have discovered that I enjoy learning new forms and dabbling in Flash Fiction.

    May we all continue to read each other, and be successful in our growth and love of reading and writing.

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  13. What a wonderful and informative interview, Colleen and Liz. I remember those “symbol safaris” and though I like many different styles of poetry, I agree with what Liz says about the different ways we connect. I also had biases about syllabic poetry until Colleen educated me. 😀 I loved Liz’s book and how intimate it felt. Great job, ladies.

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  14. Thanks Colleen, for the very interesting, and so powerful interview with Liz. Also for me it was very enlightening to hear more bout Liz’s understanding of poetry. This “K-12 education has sent students out on a symbol safari, and if they came back with a zebra instead of a lion, they got a bad grade.” Even i am not in K-12 i am also feeling like on the safari. Lol Best wishes, Michael

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  15. I just finished an interview with one of my favorite poets, wish I had seen this sooner. I could have used some insight. Love this ❤️ thank you for sharing 🙏

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