I am delighted to welcome well-known author and story performer, Joan Leotta, as a Guest Blogger to the Autumn Voices blog. She is our first American guest – the first of many more, I hope. Joan is from Pittsburgh where she began to write at an early age, receiving various awards from high school on. After a career as an economist she settled into the life of a wife, Mom, performing story teller and freelance writer, eventually carving out time for books. The Kennedy Center, most of the Smithsonians, and many schools and libraries are among her performance venues.
The Washington Post, Burke Connection, Woman's Day and Myrtle Beach Sun News, omdb.com are among the sites that have published her articles and fiction. In addition to Giulia Goes to War, she has two non-fiction books in print.
Joan recently wrote this about herself for Brit Mag:
‘Seventy has been an interesting year for me. I love celebrating my birthday and charged into my birthday month, January, with high expectations and goals. However, life has pushed back with the news that both my children’s book publisher and my romance/women’s book publishers are out of business! Yikes! Only my poetry book remains in print—Languid Lusciousness with Lemon. Taking this as a sign that I should write more poetry, I have been working hard on two things—putting new work into the universe and consolidating some packages of poems to approach another publisher for a chapbook and or a book of my work.
In the first half of this year, I won second prize in the Dancing Poetry contest for a poem written and published a while ago, second prize in a contest for seniors for a poem written this year about Alzheimers, and first place for a poem written about my time as a caregiver for my mother—Wilda Morris’ blog monthly contest.
Several new poems, written in this seventieth year have also been published—as well as newspaper articles and an essay.
My poems (and other writings) are often nostalgic—but with a pop—I want to not only share with the reader a moment from my past, but also to invite the reader to see a connection between past and present in a way that lifts them up to enjoy their own present more fully.
All that said, here are some examples of work that has been written and published since January of this year (when I turned 70).
Also, I am a story performer and this year, my seventieth, added senior living facilities to my list of venues, with programs that combine real stories from my life and folktales.’
To this, Joan adds: ‘Since turning seventy I have started a new challenge for myself in writing – in poetry to add more "music" to my words by charting rhythm and I have undertaken two new-to-me forms: modern haiku and the ghazal.’
In her email to me Joan wrote:
Poetry is the distilled essence of the soul. It is observation, reflection, seen through the poets eyes, spoken through the poets voice for readers ears and eyes…and for his own. It is intensely personal while also having universal applicability.
Some of my all time favorite poems are in the book of Psalms. Others range from the
exquisite haiku of Mary Kendall, a contemporary woman known in UK and US to classic verbal melodies by TS Eliot, Neruda, and Lorca.
Poetry is often the first form of writing we encounter and, it has remained my preferred form since early nursery school. I am a wide reader…nonfiction, fiction of many types essays, and even cereal boxes.
As a writer my eclectic concerns have birthed poems, essays, hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, several books, short stories and bits and pieces here and there. Yet in all things applied to paper, on computer, by pencil, or with pen, my mind seeks to channel the flow of words into the contracts of Poetry to ensure that the reader and I are making a deeper connection…parallel sentences, images, alliteration…these are just a few of the colors from the poetic palette that find their way onto the canvas of even my simplest recipe article for the local paper.
Poetry allows me to mold what would be a simple logical exercise into something that reveals my passion for the subject, allows me to draw the reader in as I would an audience member when I am on stage. Viva Poetry!
2018 Poem Examples
My Father’s Late-Night Suppers
By Joan Leotta
My father often worked late,
arriving home near midnight
to a late supper of poached eggs
in tomato sauce,
or fried eggs and peppers.
I sat by him at the yellow
that was our kitchen table
to spill out my day to him
while he ate. I sampled his
supper—liking it because he liked it.
On warm summer
nights, after his late supper,
he scooped small bowls of ice cream
for himself, my mom and me and
out on the back porch
we ate and talked while watching stars.
Published in May, 2018 at https://whispersinthewind333.blogspot.com
This one was written and published in 2018 in Ethos, a new literary journal out of India! It was inspired by a conversation with a friend of mine who has been a widow for two years now.
We ran into each other at one of her many volunteer gigs—our local library.
The Widow’s Nights
By Joan Leotta
“Days are not so bad.
My volunteer work
Lunch with friends.
All of these fill the daytime hours.
But it is the nights—
they are so long, so very long.”
I don’t know how to respond.
We smile at each other in
a moment of silence.
Then, she adds, “If you have
any alterations you need done,
bring them over. I don’t sew
regularly now, just for friends.”
When I get home, I search my
closet for undone hems,
anything in need of long
stitching to shorten a widow’s nights.
Published in Ethos Magazine premier issue, ethosliterary.org, Online and a print versions