Five provocative questions answered by an inspiring and fabulous woman – a woman with something to say.
Meet Shirley Brewer
Shirley J. Brewer is a poet and educator. She presents workshops on Creativity and Poetry. Shirley is currently poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts and Technology in Baltimore County. Her poems appear in The Cortland Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Evening Street Review, Pearl, Comstock Review, Passager, Manorborn, and other journals. Shirley’s poetry books include: A Little Breast Music, published in 2008 by Passager Books, and After Words, published in 2013 by Apprentice House.
Her new venture: The Poet’s Coach, Move Forward with Your Writing Goals.
Shirley reads her poetry frequently in the Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis corridor… She has been featured at the Baltimore Book Festival, Stoop Storytelling, and also on WYPR’s The Signal.
People would be surprised to know that: My writing and personal lives have been enriched by a variety of unusual part-time jobs: Talking Reindeer at Hutzler’s Department Store, bartender at a waterfront dive called Captain Clyde’s, palm reader at political soirees, shoe-seller at the Annapolis Sailboat Show. The nickname – according to my landlord – of my small apartment complex, after I moved to Annapolis from Rochester, New York (age 22), for my first teaching job, was Yum Yum Gardens. My parents were not pleased!
The WTL 5:
What is the conversation that changed your life?
I was 55, and at a crossroads. I’d “retired” early, after 32 years as a speech therapist with the Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland, in order to pursue poetry and other creative avenues. A friend and fellow poet, also 55, responded in a conversation about whether or not I should return to graduate school at my age: Why wouldn’t you go to graduate school? Of course, you should do this! And I did! I graduated in 2005, at the age of 58, with a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing/Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore. A life-altering experience!
What are you most conscious of today?
I am most aware of the contrast between Noise and Silence. I’m sensitive to the cacophony in our culture – guns, traffic, and the jabber of loud conversations. I just want to turn down the volume! As a writer, I love the beauty of silence, a chance to connect with my inner realm. I do enjoy healthy noise, in small doses. Recently, I accompanied a friend and her three young children to a museum for kids, and we had a raucously good time. All of us need to take periodic vacations from noise, and give ourselves the gift of silence.
What part of you have you yet to give voice to?
I’m in the process of giving voice to the deep belief that we can heal ourselves and others through writing. My second book of poetry, After Words, is an elegy honoring the life of a 23-year-old breast cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins, Stephen Pitcairn, who was stabbed to death in 2010 during a robbery in Baltimore – one block from my home. Previously, I was known for the humor and whimsy in my poems. After Words made me more aware of how violent acts affect families and friends of those slain. A new presentation is forthcoming: Healing through Writing: Survival and Craft.
What’s the conversation women need to be having collectively?
I believe every woman needs to discover and connect with her Personal Life Vision – involving self-growth and compassion for others. Then, when women gather, the force of their personal strength becomes an unstoppable entity. Women need to have a conversation about Making Change, ways to steer from the inside and help the culture head in more positive and healthy directions – away from violence and noise and the superficial. Women, collectively, can nudge the culture toward a kinder and more compatible future. I see women doing this now – the mothers of Newtown. Let’s keep it going and pay it forward.
What needs to be said bigger, louder, stronger?
I Am Enough.
I Love Myself. I Love Who I Am.
I Can Make Change in Myself and in My World.
I will find a way to make a difference in my own life, in my home, my neighborhood, my community, my city, my state, my country, and in this hazy, damaged, yet beautiful world.
Thank you, Shirley, for sharing your powerful voice
with WomanTalk Live.