Poet Sheila Sondik's chapbook inspired by Rawlings' novel 'The Yearling'

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 5, 2013 

Shelia Sondik

Bellingham painter, printmaker and poet Shelia Sondik shares poems from her chapbook, "Fishing a Familiar Pond," at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at Village Books, 1200 11th St.

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Bellingham painter, printmaker and poet Shelia Sondik shares poems from her chapbook, "Fishing a Familiar Pond," at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at Village Books, 1200 11th St.

Sondik accepted an invitation to be one of 85 poets invited for the National 2013 Pulitzer-Remix (pulitzerremix.com); her poems in the chapbook are composed with random bits of text from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' "The Yearling."

The poetry is a meditation on themes from the novel, including the loss of childhood innocence, our bond with the natural world, self-reliance and the complexity of familial love. The covers and title pages, designed by Anita K. Boyle of Egress Studio Press, reproduce two of Sondik's prints. Details: sheilasondik.com.

Question: Where did you grow up, and how did you come west?

Answer: I am a native of Hartford, Conn., but I realized that I'd been born on the wrong coast the first time I visited the San Francisco Bay Area, in my senior year of high school.

Q: Where did you go to university?

A: I went to Harvard with a major in government (and the student movement). Rediscovering my childhood love of art, I took art history and drawing classes in my junior and senior years. I moved to Berkeley after graduating in 1971. I studied printmaking and painting at community college and earned a BFA from the California College of the Arts in Oakland in 1977.

Q: Then what?

A: The next 20 years or so were filled with raising my two daughters, accounting and volunteer work, and whatever art I could fit in: gouache and watercolor painting, art quilt and kelp basketry.

Q: Then you changed course?

A: When my older daughter went off to college, I followed Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" program with a friend from New Zealand. Soon I had created my first mature body of work - ink and watercolor paintings on crinkled Japanese paper.

After so many years in Berkeley, my husband and I were ready for a change. In 2003 I attended a conference at Fairhaven College and fell in love with Bellingham. We moved here in 2008. We found a house with a large garage, which is now my studio.

Q: Have you always enjoyed poetry?

A: I wrote poetry as a child. Two of my aunts published their poetry; one was also a painter. My adult journey with poetry began in the 1970s, when my husband went to medical school in Cleveland and I stayed behind. I missed him and found comfort in poetry. When I joined him in Cleveland, one of my poems won an award in a contest for poems about Cleveland. I continued to write poetry, but simply filed my work away.

In Bellingham, I found a warm, welcoming poetry community. I began publishing my work in journals and have been invited to participate in many poetry readings. In 2010, a workshop put on by the Bellingham Haiku Group inspired me to begin writing in Japanese poetic forms. Many of the poems in "Fishing a Familiar Pond" are tanka, a five-line form.

Q: What are the techniques you use in your visual and literary creations?

A: I find printmaking and poetry very similar. Both isolate a moment and distill it to its essence.

In writing and art, I am strongly influenced by my love of Chinese and Japanese culture. I practice qi gong, ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement - living sculpture), and Chinese calligraphy.

My inspiration is in nature, the compositions and textures I find in often overlooked details. For four years I've been working on a series of prints based on the eroded Chuckanut sandstone at Larrabee State Park.

In my visual art and poetry, I am learning to trust my intuition and the workings of chance.

Q: How did "Fishing a Familiar Pond" come about?

A: The Found Poetry Review invited me to participate in their Pulitzer Remix project for National Poetry Month this year. Eighty-five poets were each assigned a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, in which to "find" 30 new poems. I photocopied and cut up pages of "The Yearling," and collaged the fragments to create my poems.

Q: Why did you choose Anita Boyle to do the design work?

A: After I organized the poems into a manuscript, I asked Anita, of Egress Studio Press, to do the design, because I am a great admirer of her books. I am thrilled with the result. The typography and composition support the seriousness of the poems. I love the way she incorporated two of my prints into the design.

Q: What else besides poetry and artistic endeavors is fun for you?

A: Reading novels is fun (and essential). I'm an avid word puzzler and a member of the National Puzzlers' League. I like walking in beautiful places and taking the time to admire lichens and fungi. Weeding my garden is meditative and satisfying.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Follow Bellingham Entertainment on Facebook or @bhamentertainme on Twitter.

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