BEMIDJI - Erin Lynn Marsh knew that she wanted to be a writer for as far back as she can remember, but it took a "writer in residence" at the College of St. Benedict to support that dream.
"Lucille Clifton was the writer in residence and she wrote 'Good Woman,' a collection of essays and poems about womanhood," Marsh said. "She inspired me to keep writing. I really love memoirs; getting a glimpse into someone else's life."
Marsh had just finished recording a reading of six of her poems at KBXE for broadcast later this month when we met for an interview. She was asked to submit some of her work and the station chose to have her come in to read them.
"It's cool to hear a poet read their own work," Marsh added. "We are blessed in Bemidji to have a lot of really good writers like Sean Hill, Marsh Muirhead and Anthony Swann. I think that poetry is really important to a community; and we struggle to get good audiences for readings. And listening to poetry being read aloud also takes a special skill."
Marsh, a Bemidji High School graduate, went to college intending to be a teacher and discovered after an internship that it would be the wrong career path for her. Marsh then started to focus on poetry while at St. Benedict's and realized for the first time that people were taking her writing seriously.
Her professors would take her poems and give back constructive comments.
Marsh worked in the business world after graduation and continued to write poetry on the side. But about five years ago, she realized that her passion was creative writing and poetry. She earned bachelor of fine arts from Lesley University in Boston in January 2011.
"Now I go to school full time at Bemidji State University for my master's in English," said Marsh. "I hope to teach and work on creative writing on a college level. I want to be with students who want to be there."
Marsh went on to discuss what makes a good teacher of poetry and what that teacher needs to impart to students.
Marsh said she feels teachers need to be able to help students discern their ability for she knows that writing is a struggle. Marsh also believes that either you are born with the talent or you are not.
She said poets are not flighty; they need to be able to write in compact images. They need to read poetry and be an active member of the (writing) community; buy books and read current writers and not just the traditional poets.
Marsh's style is called lyrical poetry because it takes images, works with small bits of information and is metaphorical in nature. One of the poems currently available on the online literary magazine Paper Darts is "Tales Of An Earwig." It stems from an "old wife's tale" of how an earwig (worm) can get into your brain and devour it.
"I started thinking about earwigs and then about how people enter your brain," said Marsh. "How they sort of eat at you, they kind of get to you and into your life; an earwig is a metaphor for the unpleasant people who get into your head and eat at your brain."
Marsh found that poetry was the best way for her to express herself. She can use images in her stories as opposed to writing about what she did or where she went. She is able to concentrate in little snippets using strong imagery to tell stories. In her poem about Earwigs, for example, she is really writing about herself and relationships.
Marsh went to talk about writing as a catharsis like journaling, for example. Cathartic poetry is driven by emotions; it is not wrong, it's just different. But for Marsh,
poetry is a lifetime commitment and extensive research is an element.
Another commitment is taking classes with or conferring with established writers. Marsh went to study in the Twin Cities with Sharon Chmielarz, who advised her to find better titles for her poems. For example, another poem on the net is "Dentinogenesis Imperfecta" a poem about a degenerative dental condition. Chmielarz suggested that the title could be changed to "You Can Tell A Lot About a Woman by Her Kiss," a more interesting title. Marsh said poetry is an art form that allows one to talk about themselves in other ways.
Marsh is making the changes suggested by other professionals and preparing her manuscript for publication submission to Loonfeather Press and other publishing houses.
To get a look at Marsh's poetry see paperdarts.org/literary-magazine/poetry during the month of August.
A reading of her poems is scheduled Aug. 22 on KBXE during the morning show and again from 2-4 p.m.