“An Orchard of Oaks” by Heather Vollans
POET: Gertrude Olga Down
About the Poet:
Gertrude (Trudi) Olga Down has been writing and reading poetry since she was a young child. She began to write with more commitment after joining The Tower Poetry Society in 1981.
Typically using a free verse style, Trudi’s poetry offers personal insights on the human condition, and on nature and love. She strives to present these word pictures in poetry that is accessible to all readers.
I was quite young when I became interested in poetry and, like most children, enjoyed the rhythm and rhyme of the poems which we read in public school. From an early age I also was fascinated by the sound of words and intrigued by how a word’s meaning could change based on where words were placed in a sentence or how emphasis could change the meaning. My first poems were mostly about nature and animals. When I started reading a variety of poetic styles in high school and university, I began to move towards a freer style of writing, and expanded and diversified themes to include philosophy, relationships, and politics.
Why do you write poetry?
I write poetry to explore a theme or expand upon a “word picture” in my mind that I feel does not translate well into prose. I like the challenge of working with the theme or picture, shaping the poem so that the ideas flow and the imagery is clear. I write poetry because I truly believe it is a wonderfully unique style of communication; the poet has to get his or her “message” across in a few words, in short lines, and in a manner that is both engaging and informative. To me, poetry is very different from prose. That’s why I don’t write “prose poems” – I don’t see the point! Over the years I’ve learned that a poem can “speak” to the reader in different ways. What I try to communicate through a poem may be understood very differently by a reader; I think that’s fascinating!
What is the best advice you have ever received and would share with new poets?
Other than school and workshops, I’ve never taken any formal writing courses. One thing I can mention: over the years I’ve learned that poets need to realize when a piece is overwritten. Poetry is not like prose; the poet should not tell or explain everything. In poetry, it’s important to use language, metaphor, and simile to give the reader an insight into the poem, without being absolutely clear. I really like the advice provided by a former Editor-in-chief of Tower Poetry who said, “Be obscure, clearly”! Because workshops are done with a group of like-minded writers, they can provide great insight for the poet as to whether the poem “works”. The comments that arise out of these group sessions benefit not only the poet/poem under discussion, but everyone in attendance. I’ve received many excellent tips and suggestions from TPS workshop sessions that have helped me improve as a writer of poetry.
Can you comment on your process?
I enjoy the challenge of putting into verse what someone else might write as prose. It is exhilarating to work similes and metaphors into a poem and realize that they are working well, providing the mind pictures that help the reader understand the poem. I also like to play around with sounds and alliterations. It’s also important to me that the shape of the poem fits the theme or mood. I don’t mean that I write “shaped” poems; I mean that the stanza breaks are consistent; that lines are a suitable length and include a rhythm that continues throughout the poem; that the lines read such that they provide direction to the reader as to what the focus of the poem is all about. I’m not a fan of line breaks that jar or seem inappropriate to the flow of the reading of the poem. I write a poem from a particular point of view, but I also try to write the piece so that it can have universal appeal and be appreciated by a wide readership. I rarely “put myself” into my poetry.
More Gertrude Olga Down poems:
She has poetry in this collection: https://www.lummoxpress.com/lc/product/tamaracks/
MOSAIC ARTIST: HEATHER VOLLANS
About Heather’s Artwork (from her website): “The biggest influence in my work is texture – my upbringing in Australia, my years travelling, especially in the Middle East and Europe have stayed with me and play a major role in my work. Working in construction for years I saw so much texture – metals, ceramics, wood, concrete etc – but also much waste and too much going to landfill! Since my teenage years I’ve had a passion for making things from discarded materials. I tried my hand at many things, including decoupage, paper mache, wood finishing, patchwork quilting – always giving new life to old materials. My passion for mosaic is influenced from these beginnings and continues to fire me.”
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT POEM?
The idea of the oak trees as sentinels drew me in. I have such beautiful memories of wandering through oak orchards and feeling their awesome wonder, ancient-ness and connectedness with us. The poem truly spoke to this.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR PROCESS FROM IDEA TO FINISHED WORK? WHY THOSE COLOURS AND SHAPES?
I knew immediately I wanted to use the long slivery shards of slate to portray the oak branches, and to keep the design simple to emphasise the trees. I also wanted it soft, not blingy to befit the subject of the poem. My initial experiment was with small rounds of coloured glass to give the idea of the graves next to the pathway, but glass was way too strong and took away from the texture of the slate. So, I eventually settled on the white sand background and the simple pathway with tiny pebbles.
WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES? WHAT WAS EASY?
It was quite the journey. I guess it is new concept for me, but I kept my materials familiar. I usually work in abstract but wanted to represent real oaks. It was tough! The shape did not work for sooo long. Trying to portray the trees’ long majestic hanging branches was really difficult – mostly because I usually work not ‘picturely” I’m sure. Responding to any subject I find incredibly hard and ‘picturely‘, almost impossible. But again I ‘enjoyed’ the challenge; wanted to push myself out of my own self-imposed boundaries.
Have you done this kind of project before? Would you do it again?
I did this project last year thanks to Lorraine and I wanted the challenge again.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I love everything about this collaboration between artists. Finding common ground between artists is truly valuable and we should do more of it! We all also need to be challenged and for me at least, this kind of collaborative project certainly does that. Working through this artwork also brought back many beautiful memories of wanderings through oaks and I thought a lot about how precious they are to us and how emotionally connected we are to trees. Aaah, that beautiful process! My thanks to Gertrude Olga Down for being inspired to write such a beautiful poem and to Lorraine Roy for facilitating such a wonderful collaborative project.
SIZE OF THE PIECE. HOW IS IT MOUNTED? PRICE IF FOR SALE. WHERE IS IT AVAILABLE?
It’s mounted on wediboard which is a lightweight Styrofoam product sandwiched between thin layers of cement. Great for working on projects that can end up quite weighty. Price $150 Available at Dawning Décor Studio, in Brantford. 905 667 4271
Title: An Orchard of Oaks
Materials: slate and pebbles.
More Heather Vollans…
- Instagram @HeatherVollans
Here are some more works…
- “North Shore Breezes”
- “Red Gold”
- “take those chances”
WE HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED THIS SEVENTH DANCE OF POETRY AND VISUAL ART.
ARTISTS, there are poems still available to choose from and time to get in on the project… https://towerpoetry.ca/po-art-ry-poems/
POETS, stay tuned… we will open up submissions towards the end of 2023. As for what will happen with PoARTry, we don’t know.
This is an organic project, and we are thinking of a possible exhibit or publication. Who knows?! What we do know is that we have a lot of exciting work by talented poets and artists to share with you each month!
DID YOU KNOW? YOU CAN POP OVER TO OUR TOWER POETRY FACEBOOK GROUP FOR DISCUSSION!
Note to Tower Poetry Members — You are invited to head over to the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas to choose art from the Members’ Exhibit that may inspire you to create a poem for Artwalk, part of Arts Dundas Week 2023. Please submit your poems no later than SEPTEMBER 12th. Complete details are found in the email sent out on Aug. 5. * Note: if you aren’t a member, it’s easy to become one. Simply head on over to our Membership page!