I don’t know exactly how many years I have known Sam, aka Samantha Reynolds, former journalist/entrepreneur extraordinaire/creative genius/wife/mother/friend, but it has got to be going on at least eight. Still, you can know someone, but not really know them.
I knew, for instance, that Sam has a lovely manner of speaking and countenance. She exudes warmth, is absolutely lovely, and makes those who spend time with her feel better — about life, and about themselves.
But there was more I didn’t know about Sam than I did. It was a mostly surface, social relationship, even though I have counted her among my friends, because of the connection I felt to her.
That changed recently, though…my understanding of her. I really, really get her now.
It’s all because of bentlily, Sam’s new project. She writes and sends out a poem a day…and each one has given me insight into the writer and the woman. Some of them move me to tears, some of them are about experiences that mirror what I am going through. I had to write to her recently after one particular poem.
A manifesto for motherhood
Don’t worry that he refuses to crawl
or eat anything but bananas and bread
don’t worry about whether you read the right book
or got any of it
don’t worry about his kindergarten teacher
or if he’ll always be shy
love him with vigor
love yourself just as much
don’t let anxiety
wrench your spirit shut
he chose you
your job is to be seen
so dig for your truth
and show it to him
tender and unpolished
don’t use the phrase book of anyone else
call him a tuba rumple
make up dance routines
have baths at noon
be late sometimes
just the two of you
because the sky was orange and silk
and the wind was just right
I sent her this email:
You made me cry again, Sam. I am getting to know you through your poems, more deeply than I ever have before…and I love you very much. You are such a good mom and wife and friend. You are also teaching me a lot about myself…as I see myself in your work, in your words. You are magical!
And now, I’m so pleased to introduce you to my friend Samantha.
1. Where do you live?
2. What do you do for your day job?
I am the President of Echo Memoirs, a high-end custom book publisher specializing in personal biographies and company histories.
3. How would you sum up bentlily?
I publish one poem a day on the site as my way of being more present and savouring the details of my life.
4. What is behind the name of the site?
In our fast-paced lives, it’s a reminder to notice the little things, like a bent lily.
5. How did the idea for the site come to you?
In January 2011, I was inspired by a friend to skip New Year’s resolutions and decide on one theme instead. After much deliberation, I decided my theme would be “to be present.” As a new mother, I figured this was a tricky way to get me to make sure the subtleties of my son’s first year didn’t go unnoticed.
But how does one just “be present?” I’m a lousy meditator and a compulsive list-maker, both of which launch me into daydreaming about the future much of the time. What does — and always has — ground me to the very pinpoint of the present is writing. And so it was that I decided to make it my Year of Being a Poet.
I pledged to write one poem a day. An out-of-town friend said he would read them to hold me accountable so rather than email each poem to him, I decided to create a blog. I had no idea it would draw the attention of people outside of a small group of my friends.
6. What is your mission?
To inspire people to slow down and delight in the details of life.
7. What do you hope your readers leave with?
A fresh perspective on something they’ve thought about the same way for years, whether it’s grief, parenting, or folding their husband’s socks. Also, the motivation to challenge themselves to look a little deeper at things, allow the originality of each moment to bloom.
8. Why is poetry your chosen method of expression? What is it about poetry that works best for you?
I could have chosen to keep a diary every day but there is something wonderfully bracketed about a poem. It’s like it has its own rhythm and it knows when to end. A diary entry felt too open-ended, which is a little daunting for a daily project. By the end of the day, I am so saturated with all the details I have absorbed, the poem drops right out. It really is that easy – I never spend more than 10 or 15 minutes writing my poem right before I go to sleep. My husband says it’s almost creepy but I’m pretty sure that’s a compliment.
9. What are your thoughts about poetry in the modern context — have we lost touch with this form of expression or is it alive and well?
Poetry is definitely making a comeback, but not the stuffy, arcane kind. Look at spoken word poet Shane Koyczan who rocked the 2010 Olympic opening ceremonies, and continues to sell-out large venues. One of the bestselling iphone apps in Christmas 2010 featured Helena Bonham Carter and Bill Nighy reading famous poems. The Sundance channel did 10 short animated films to some of Billy Collins’ quirkiest, most accessible poems. The list goes on…I think it has something to do with shorter attention spans these days. Poetry gives people a big emotional hit in a few minutes.
10. What is the best part of having this site?
It’s a tie. One is the truly transformative practice of being more present. The other is the community of readers I have “met” online who regularly move me to tears with their expressions of gratitude for the inspiration to savour their lives a little more.
11. Are there any drawbacks? Do you ever sit and stare at your keyboard with writer’s block?
The only downside is the challenge of unplugging. I used to be able to go a week without checking my email but now I find I feel responsible to my readers to check twitter, facebook, email and my blog a few times a day. I try not to get obsessed but it’s addictive.
I always write at the very end of the night. There is something about the imposed deadline of imminent sleep that cuts through the deliberation of writing and forces me to commit. If I am really stuck, I open the thesaurus, pick a word, and start writing whatever comes to mind around that word. By using a word I wouldn’t have picked myself, it’s like a magnet for other thoughts I didn’t know were dormant inside me.
12. What does a typical day look like for you? Where and when do you write and post?
I write at my computer in my home office, on the top floor overlooking a beautiful park and lake. I write my poems and post them in the 15 minutes before bed.
13. Where do you hope to take bentlily — what are your plans and dreams?
I have big plans for bentlily. I want to offer an e-course that takes people through a practice of writing a poem a day for 30 days. I want to grow the community of readers to the point where I can build a section on the site where subscribers can post their own poems to share them with other members and the world. I plan to continue publishing a limited edition selection of my poems each year, but I also have two other books in mind that have larger potential audiences, and I’d like to find a mainstream publisher to take them on. (sneak preview: one is about the intersection of creativity and mindfulness…an unexpectedly powerful place).
14. What responses have you had to the site that make you the most touched, happy, and proud?
I wrote a poem in March 2012 about a friend of mine who is battling cancer. I received this email back (I will keep it anonymous to respect her privacy):
I have been receiving your daily poems for a few months and wanted to say thank you. They brighten my day, help me to slow down. And once, they stopped me in my tracks.
I am a 42 year old mom of 2 amazing boys. 2011 has been a tough one. Going through a shocking and emotional separation and soon-to-be divorce and then being diagnosed with lung cancer on Dec 5 and then picking my boys up and moving them across the country to be with my family and treatment.
Fast forward to 3 rounds of chemo and March 16 and opening my email. Your words took my breath away. I sat at my iPad and cried for how you knew my thoughts and feelings. And ultimately honored, how all my friends and family, my angels on earth, are my light.
Today I went for my first pet scan since chemo began and my tumors are “dramatically decreased” and one is completely gone. You put in to words, beautifully, the power of light over dark. Thank you.
Thank you for your beautiful soul. I look forward to your poems every day.
For more information, check out Sam’s site, and be sure to get your own personalized poem with her InstaPoem!