Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ellen Olinger - Three Questions

Ellen Olinger has been writing poetry since high school. She lives with her husband, Karl, by Lake Michigan. She recently began a poetry blog and welcomes you to visit when you have a moment: Poems from Oostburg, WI, USA.

Ellen's poems have been published in a wide variety of journals. Examples include Hermitage, Hummingbird, LYNX, Modern Haiku, Parnassus Literary Review, and SMILE (non-profit bold large print publication).

1) Why do you write haiku?

By God's grace, I was able to give 20 years to the field of special education and contributed in many ways. During this time, I also discovered the small poetry presses. Then my life took a dramatic turn, as a chronic illness resulted in major surgery. My 40th birthday was in the hospital (1993). I found during recovery that while the content of many things I was reading was helpful, I could not absorb the material. This was quite an adjustment, as I was used to reading and writing academic articles in my field. A few collaborative pieces have survived the test of time.

My mother, Enola Borgh, was an English professor. She saved the magazines where my poems appeared and wrote the page numbers on the covers. She also suggested I learn a form, and I found haiku. Then during my recovery, a few years later, I found that the short forms, including haiku, were writing I could read. I also began ordering books and loved their simplicity of design. Not too much on the page, room to breathe, a way to learn something new: exactly the kind of thinking I was trained to do in special education.

Life came full circle and grew in a new way, and I then had the privilege of helping with my mother's care.

The poets I met through the short forms continue to be so kind. Mail is a special blessing.

2) What other poetic forms do you enjoy?

I grew up in a Lutheran church and loved the liturgy, hymns, Bible readings, and sermons. While I do not belong to a denomination now--my husband and I have lived in different places and have offered our gifts to different ministries--poetry began in church. "In the beginning was the Word..." (John 1).

Also, I have been reading the Psalms aloud in various English translations since my recovery. This comforted me and helped me get writing again too.

I try to read widely and stretch to read different forms and authors with various perspectives on life. I read far more than I write. Poetry helps me feel whole.

3) Of the many wonderful haiku you’ve written, what do you consider to be your top three?

rarely at your grave--
    geranium blooms freely
        on your workshop stool

Modern Haiku, Vol. XXVII, NO. 3. Fall 1996.

at the local store...
Christmas at Nanna's

cross-stitch from the
grandmother I didn't meet:
"Put the coffee on"

Parnassus Literary Journal, Vol. 28, NR. 3. Fall/Winter 2004.

[Photo of Ellen by Karl Olinger.]

If you've been enjoying this weekly series and have not contributed, please consider sharing your response (whether it be for haiku or tanka) to the three little questions that Ellen answered. You must be a published poet to participate.


Unknown said...

These are lovely, Ellen. (From another Ellen)

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best responses I've ever read to the 3 questions series. Thanks so much for sharing, Ellen.

Area 17 said...

I agree with Aurora.

Literature Director, 2010 Bath Japanese Festival

snowbird said...

Ellen, your haiku are touching. And how true about the friends haiku bring for us all. It's a special kind of sharing... Thank you. Merrill

Ellen Olinger said...

Thank you all for your very kind and generous comments!

And Curtis, for this privilege and site.

Jessie Carty said...

i love your story of how you came to haiku :)

Swirly said...

A lovely interview about a lovely, extraordinary poet!