Sunday, April 8, 2018

Samantha Reynolds—That Poem a Day Woman

Samantha Reynolds at work
Samantha Reynolds seems to be the kind of woman who with boundless energy, enthusiasm, and creativity can leave a geezer like me exhausted just thinking about.  Already the founder and chief executive of her own company, Echo Memoirs, a custom book publishing company founded in 1999, when her  son was born in 2011 she inaugurated a blog, Bentility—The Art of Noticing Your Life in which she pledged to write and share a poem a day for her son’s first year.  The blog took off and became one of those internet sensations.  She inspired  thousands of people to explore their  lives through poetry.
Reynolds studied journalism at the University of Victoria, She is a cinephile, bibliophile, and lover of public radio. Reynolds is married to filmmaker Pete McCormack with whom she now has two children.  They live in Vancouver, BC.

Bentley said that the goal of her project was not just disciplining herself to write or even to chronicle the development of her son, but to be present in her own life. 
But how does one just “be present?” I’m a lousy meditator and a compulsive list-maker, both of which launch me into daydreaming about the future much of the time. What does—and always has—ground me to the very pinpoint of the present is writing. And so it was that I decided to make it my Year of Being a Poet.
I pledged to write one poem a day. Not to rack up reams of poetry—that was just a lovely side effect. No, the real goal was to train me to see the world constantly with the eyes of a poet, which means to slow down, savour, take delight in, and note the very essence of the world around me.
That would have been a noble, Zen-like project in and of itself.  In some ways it was probably not much different than Emily Dickinson’s urge produce all of those little cryptic gems on any scrap of paper lying around and shove them in drawers bound with twine and ribbons.  Not that Reynolds is in any other way Dickinsonesque—her poems are open, straight forward, and clear eyed with enough insight to keep them surprising.  Which is why both the poems and the blog became so popular.
At the end of the year, Dickinson was empowered to continue writing  And in response to the outpouring of readers she launched Fall Back in Love With Your Life, a three week self-help e-course.  I am usually allergic to that kind of  sunny, New-Agey stuff but other folks, including those I respect find it useful.  And since she was already in the publishing business, it’s no surprise that she issued Bentlily: A collection of poems.

Subsequently Reynolds occasionally took sabbaticals from posting on her blog when she was pregnant with her second child and at other brief intervals.  During those times she said she enjoyed the delicious intimacy of writing her daily verse in her private diary.  I note that the last public poem on her Blog was put up on September 20, 2016 marking her younger son’s entry into day care.  The Blog remains up and seemingly active, so perhaps this is just another sabbatical.  Or perhaps Reynolds living in the present has simply moved on to other things.
As usual, I was late to the party. I first noted Reynolds when a friend posted the following poem on Facebook and it set me off to learn more about the writer.

I Am Not Old
I am not old…she said
I am rare.
I am the standing ovation
At the end of the play.
I am the retrospective
Of my life as art
I am the hours
Connected like dots
Into good sense
I am the fullness
Of existing.
You think I am waiting to die…
But I am waiting to be found
I am a treasure.
I am a map.
And these wrinkles are
Imprints of my journey
Ask me anything

—Samantha  Reynolds

Here are a couple of others.

Confessions of a Thought Bandit

I know people who write in cafés for the distraction
as though their thoughts are too shy
for eye contact
with their own brains.

I’m there for the noise too
but it’s more crooked than that

I’m there to plunder their thoughts.

I’ve always done it
tuned in to the rivers of images
pouring out of strangers
peculiar silent stories
with no beginning or end.

I can’t help it
sometimes I even try not to do it
to focus on my own poem about pirates
but suddenly I’m thinking about Michael J. Fox
and how humour makes a man sexy.

There’s no reason for me to think about Michael J. Fox
which is why I know
that girl over there is thinking about him
because she watched a Family Ties re-run this morning
or she’s writing a paper on Parkinson’s
I can’t help it
like I said.

Today the café was packed
as usual
a tide of ideas
leaking into my head
onto my page

and suddenly
jammed right up against Michael J. Fox
emerged a bloated sadness
as if the roar of the ocean
was actually
every whale
moaning together
a harrowing song
of grief.

I couldn’t be sure if it was him
but the old man in the corner
had been sitting there a long time
his coffee cold by now
which made my face pinch in that way it does
when you don’t want to cry in public
so when he got up to use the washroom
I wrote a quick note

she was crazy about you

I tucked it under his mug
and fled.
               —Samantha  Reynolds

No Excuse

Don’t tell me
you are not inspired.

That is no excuse.

Creativity doesn’t land;
it is earned.

So wrench your eyelids open
cackle at the keyboard
stomp your feet


You feel like you’re piling
stone upon stone
making nothing but an ugly
mountain of rock


from the top of it
at the end of a sweaty hour
suddenly a staggering view
a gift
a story unravels
for you
but not of you.

Write fast
creativity is not yours
to waste.

—Samantha  Reynolds

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