LET’S TALK WRITING #5 with Nancy Gufstafson


LET’S TALK WRITING #5 with Nancy Gufstafson


I am a woman who needs to write, who needs to let go of all judgment while in the process and just get it on the paper. I keep a journal, and sometimes an entry keeps tickling me. I know I haven’t said what I must say. There is more. I lie in a half sleep, images churning, until some phrase comes to the surface. It must be written down, scratched on the tablet on the bedside table. Then, hoping I can read my writing in the morning, I sleep.

Although I have written short memoirs and stories (even a novel—unpublished), I prefer to write poetry. I have no illusion that I will ever be Shakespeare (or Barbara Crooker, one of my favorite poets), but still I must write. I have found that writers are generous, and I love to receive critiques from my fellow writers. I never feel that their feedback is negative. I have written a few poems about my personal writing process, and included two of them in this article.


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Sullen as storm clouds

she hides in a corner,

still as a schooner

caught in the doldrums

till thoughts trapped

in a whirlpool’s spin

begin to bubble

and rise to the surface.

She lights a dim lamp

takes pen and notebook,

dives in a still pool

she feared had vanished.

Words veiled in mist

arise like sirens

from lazuline depths

they breathe

Across the paper

black ink freestyles,

words shape a pattern

like synchronized mermaids

sensuous, silky

in loops and swirls.

Sails full-blown, relieved

she writes

After the doldrums . . .

©Nancy Gustafson

hen0354A POEM 

or a Hair Shirt

Words and phrases

flit through her mind

at inopportune times,

in waiting lines

at stop signs

are scratched

with a dull lead

onto grocery tabs

and scraps ripped

from old envelopes

to be stored

like roses pressed between pages,

sacred tears in a glass vial,

fingernail clippings boxed in cedar,

hair pulled from a brush and braided

until that golden time

carved from disorder when she

crumbles rose petals, pours out

her tears, shakes free her nails,

unbraids her tresses

and kneels before

the loom of the Spirit

who dwells within

to weave a poem, or

heaven forbid, a hair shirt.

©Nancy Gustafson

A NOTE FROM VIGA BOLAND of VIANVI: I don’t know about you folks, but these are two of the most beautiful poems I have ever had the honour and pleasure of reading. What say you? Please leave Nancy some comments, reactions to her poems and her thoughts on writing. I’ve read much of her other work and believe me, this is a writer whose recognition is long overdue. Tell her what you think. She’s waiting to hear from you. 

When are YOU going to submit your thoughts on and experiences with writing to “Let’s Talk Writing’? We’re waiting to hear from YOU!

6 thoughts on “LET’S TALK WRITING #5 with Nancy Gufstafson

  1. Jan Selbourne

    September 29, 2016

    Nancy, those two poems are just beautiful. They touched me deeply. I can relate to lying in bed, half asleep, reaching for that elusive phrase or scene that insists on evading me. You are able to put our love of writing into the most beautiful poems.

  2. Barbara Studham

    September 29, 2016

    Why is it, as soon as I leave my laptop, that elusive word or phrase that I have been searching for, pops into my mind. Perhaps sitting writing for too long ambushes the mind and we lose sight of normal expressions. I find leaving the piece alone for a few hours, then going back to read that last paragraph helps me continue on with ease. Loved your poems Nancy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nancy Gustafson

    October 3, 2016

    Thank you, Viga and Jan and Barbara for your comments. Any praise from the three of you is high praise indeed, since you are all such gifted writers. And so generous!

    • Viga Boland

      October 3, 2016

      Nancy, you are as gifted as any of us. I’ve read a fair amount of your work. You need to believe in yourself as I do in you!

  4. May Salix

    October 3, 2016

    Hi Nancy — I can definitely relate to what you’ve written! Just in the last couple of days alone, a single phrase popped into my head and I had to stop what I was doing, rush to my notebooks, and write it down. It’s amazing what a single thought – a few words – can turn into.

    I am an avid journaler as well. I’m sure if I read my old journals, new ideas would spill out of me. I used to write nothing but poetry but for some reason never thought much of them – I’m glad that you have a better opinion of your poetry and I really hope that you’ll get the recognition you deserve for them. Your poetry is very relatable and I’m sure would speak to/for a lot of writers.

  5. Nancy Gustafson

    October 4, 2016

    Dear Viga and May,
    Thank you, sweet friends, for your encouraging comments. May, in reading your comments, I think you have so much talent swirling around inside you, just aching to get on the paper. Oh, my goodness, how I have felt that same way. Still do. Have you ever felt that so many thoughts are shoved down that that they become stopped up and back up, like a clogged drain? Some of us just refuse to give ourselves a break. I’m one who has to give myself a little talking to occasionally, to tell myself not to measure myself by any other standard, but just to give thanks for whatever talent God has given me. And to share it. It will never be appreciated by everyone and doesn’t need to be. Whoever needs to “hear” it as I intended it, will hear it and appreciate it. If perfection is my goal, I just as well never write another word. If faith in the gifts I’ve been given needs to find expression, then I will write naturally, expressing my own heart. And sometimes that expression doesn’t find its way to the paper, but rests in the minds of my children. That is enough for me. But then, that attitude has taken a few years to develop. Do I regret all my unwritten and unsaid words? Sometimes, but there they are in the lives of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. A bit of my soul shines in their eyes. Maybe they will write. Some of them already have.

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