TC Spotlight: Woody Woodsum, poet.
Happy Summer, MWP friends! We want to make sure all of you have a chance to know and read the work of Douglas “Woody” Woodsum, who completed the MWP Summer Institute in 2008. Read about him here, and then check out his impressive collection of published works.
Woody grew up in Maine and earned degrees in English from Middlebury, Denver University, and Michigan, where he won two Hopwood Awards. He worked at Bread Loaf in the Green Mountains for fourteen years, and studied at both the School of English and the Writers Conference. A former Ruth Lilly poet, Woody won the Bread Loaf Poetry Prize and a Maine Times fiction prize. In 1995, he changed his focus from his own writing to teach high school English first in Oakland, Maine and now at Carrabec High School in North Anson. With his students, he has published over a dozen anthologies of oral history, folklore, and creative writing. Two collections are abridged on CDs. Woody and his wife, the artist, Donna Asmussen, live in Smithfield, Maine. He’s published poetry and prose in dozens of magazines, newspapers and anthologies. His book, The Lawns of Lobstermen, is available from www.artjourneyer.com.
excerpt from “Ode: To Trees”
You giants, you dwarves; you leaners, you poles;
you gnarled fists, you saplings with two leaves;
you bare harbingers of cold, you budding
heralds of green . . . I sing your praise.
Woody, on the highlights of his time with the Maine Writing Project’s Summer Institute:
“The biggest highlight from my MWP institute was the incredibly positive, nurturing, and upbeat cadre. At the same time, we were still critical and professional as we posed hard questions and held each other to high standards. My teaching demonstration did not go well, I was told, but I still felt supported. A lot of my previous professional development was a more begrudging experience, a sort of the-beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves experience. Often my colleagues and I had serious questions about the pedagogical value. Not so at MWP. The required reading alone, taught me so much more than I had ever learned about teaching before (except from experience). Two other highlights were vastly improving my computer and technology competencies (note the two CDs above) and, finally, writing much more prose than I usually do.”
Woody, on how the MWP influenced his work as a writer:
“My MWP provided me with a new network of colleagues. I find teaching draining, both emotionally and physically, so it’s easy for me to let my writing life slip away. But my colleagues in the MWP have kept me involved in the annual spring writing retreat, Poetry Out Loud, publishing in the anthology, being a Poet in Residence, and submitting some of my MWP work (including the aforementioned prose) for publication. My 2008 MWP colleague, Clare Caddell, wrote in our anthology that “lasagna” was her favorite Italian word. That thought always stuck with me, and, much later, I wrote and published my poem “Amore” in Maine Magazine. My poem’s first line is “always, I have loved the word ‘lasagna.'” Thanks Clare and MWP.”
Woody’s future writing plans:
“I plan to put together a new book-length poetry manuscript and an abridged chapbook version. I hope to find a publisher for both of them, and I plan on sending groups of poems to magazines as I always have. I’m in a poetry group again, finally, after many years of hiatus. We meet every two weeks, and that pressure to write to “deadline” helps. A year ago, I bought a boat, and I’m learning how to fish in fresh water (both liquid and frozen). A few fishing poems are coming along.”
excerpt from “Blackberry War”
I do not often go looking for black.
Afraid of the old dark all my life, I’ve learned
To be in darkness and control my fear,
Learned how rare it is to find true darkness.
It’s found deep in new moon woods on starless nights
Or in the windowless cellar of a house
With the door shut tight at the top of the steps
And the metal bulkhead padlocked outside.
War is another way into the black:
The tracers and coffins I need not recount.
Thank you, Woody, for your inspiration, and congratulations on your success. Write on!