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Dear Site Visitors,

The January 2000 featured poet is Dona Lou Pearson (donalou), a high school teacher from Russelville, Arkansas. Dona is a dear friend who was at my side from the beginning of my plan to create poetheart.com. When I decided that I might interview a poet every month, Dona graciously accepted to be my first featured poet. That she should be the first featured poet was a natural selection since she was the first poet other than myself to grace the pages of this website. Many site visitors recognize her work from my website and I receive alot of e-mail telling me how much her work is appreciated.

She told us about herself and answered my questions about her interest in poetry.  She has chosen "Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant as her favorite poem by a renowned poet.  The revised version of her poem "Rendezvous" is her choice for her own featured poem.  Users are invited to comment on her poems and are encouraged to write in and ask her their own questions.  The questions and her answers are posted below after the interview.

Dona has her own website as well, now.  Click here to visit there.

The following interview was conducted with Dona Lou Pearson via e-mail and icq messaging between December 10, 1999 and January 8, 2000.

Thank you. Poetheart

January 2000, Dona Pearson (donalou) Interview sections you may visit (click)
Other poetry by donalou


The Interview:

Poetheart:  Tell us a little about yourself, Dona.  Where do you come from and what is your background?

Dona:  My name is Dona Pearson. I am a school teacher at a little high school in Arkansas. I was born in 1949 in Central Arizona, but my family has now resided in Arkansas for nearly 15 consecutive years. I have 7 children and 9 grandchildren. I have been writing poetry for most of my literate life though everything written by me in high school has been long since lost.

Poetheart:  Do you consider yourself a serious poet?

Dona: When my oldest child left home in 1981, I became a serious poet. The poem that I wrote then was really a song and is called "Changes". Of course, letting go is always hard for a parent to do, but this poem could apply to any kind of letting go, and some people have even interpreted it to mean the final goodbye of death. When my mother died in 1997, death became a topic that I would revisit many times. In fact, many of my poems are sad, angst-ridden, and depressing.

Poetheart:  Do you think of yourself as a "tragic figure" then?

Dona:  No. That side of me is not usually visible to other people in my everyday life, and I don't really see myself as a tragic figure. It just seems to come out that way.

Poetheart:  What inspires you to write, Dona?

Dona:  Many events have inspired me to write, and, like many other poets, love and desire are favorite poetic topics. There are also times when I am inspired to say something about my faith in God.

Poetheart:  What is poetry to you?

Dona:  Poetry is an expression of life, about what one feels deeply, but though I am not always sure that others will know exactly how I am feeling by what I say in my poetry, if it reminds them of something they themselves possess inwardly, then my poem is a success as far as I am concerned.

Poetheart:  What made you start writing poetry?

Dona:  I don't remember what made me start writing poetry, unless it was the onrush of feelings that comes with first love in high school, combined with the fact that I had an English teacher who loved poetry enough to make us read quite a lot of it.

Poetheart:  Why do you continue to write poetry?

Dona:  I can only say that writing poetry is a part of my life that I feel defines me. I am a woman, a mother, a wife, a teacher, a citizen, a human being, and a poet. All of these things define me, and help make me who I am. I don't just like writing poetry, I love it! I have poetry in my head, and sometimes I must write it down or burst. And when something important in my life happens I am compelled to write, as, for instance, when our first child left home or when my mother died.

Poetheart:  I asked you to choose one of your poems to be featured and you chose one.  Can you talk about this choice?

Dona: Yes. The poem "Rendezvous" is the one I want featured. I have a revised version of this poem, which is based on a very real love affair that I once had. It is extremely personal, and yet I feel that there are many lovers who can identify with the feelings that I put into the poem. I was deeply in love with someone, enjoyed his company and the passion that we shared, and then it ended, leaving me with feelings of regret and a longing to return to the way it was before. I chose this poem because of its poignancy and because, most of all, I am very romantic at heart.

Poetheart:  What is your favorite poem by a renowned poet?

Dona:  My favorite famous poem is "Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant, who wrote the poem at a very young age (16, I believe). It is a poem that really "sings", telling how we are all different but how Death is the Great Equalizer of men, and how men ought to both live and die with courage and dignity.

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Questions and Answers with donalou:

(01/11/00 Tim Kincaide, New York City, N.Y.)
  Are you a published poet? Do you have a published book of your poetry? What advice do you have for novice poets?

Dona:  I am not at all famous and have only been published in a couple of anthologies by the National Library of Poetry. My advice to any young writer is to keep writing as much as possible, record the things of your life that are important to you, and seek out means and methods to publish your work to the world. Best of luck to you! I do hope someday to have a book of poetry published and I would like to find time to write a novel as well, but to accomplish this, I must take my own advice.

(01/11/00 Carmella T., Teaneck, N.J.)
  I enjoy your poems very much and find that I am able to relate to many of the things you write about. But you seem to have more poems posted on this site than anyone else. Why is that?

Dona:  I have no idea, but I think that "Poetheart" must be answer the question of why so many poems are here for me. I am very honored that he has chosen any of my poetry at all, as his own is wonderful and it has made me happy to be included with his and other such fine work.
*Poetheart comment:  Until this question, I did not realize that Dona had more poems posted on my site than anyone else. This site is constantly "under construction". I receive poetry almost daily and I post the poems which I think are good. I post poem by poem and quality determines my selection. The quantity I post is irrelevant.

(01/12/00 B. Jackson, Sandusky, Ohio)
 I am 19 and like to write poems and short stories. I like sharing my thoughts and feelings with others. But I am very shy about who sees my work and having others see the things I write. I am also very sensitive when someone criticizes my poems. Do you have any suggestions about how I might get over this?

Dona:  I still, at my advanced age, sometimes get my feelings hurt when someone criticizes my work, but that is a part of it. Sometimes the criticism, though, can be helpful if you keep an open mind. For instance, I received some pretty "brutal" criticism from a poet friend about my poem "Rendezvous" because he said it was too depressing. He told me it was like a rough draft, unfinished and unclear. He even went so far as to say my writing could be compared to "serving poisoned soup" to my readers. All of this, while it took me by surprise, made me go back and look at the poem again. And I ended up revising it (by the way, I haven't heard yet how he likes the revisions). I tend to take to heart, however, only the criticisms of those people whom I believe are qualified to judge me. As for your being shy about having your work read, that is something we all struggle with. However, if your poetry is good, and if it reflects your heart and your mind, there are those who will identify with it. And when someone says so, it is a wonderful feeling. So, take a chance and share your words as much as you can.

(01/12/00 Brian, Tarrytown, N.Y.)
 I have been visiting poetheart.com for almost a month now and have read every one of your poems as they were posted. Although I knew that there would be an interview, I had no idea it would be yours! What a wonderful idea to have an interview and then questions and answers! Now I can ask you about a poem. My favorite of your poems is "The Oasis". I have read it many times and took the liberty of printing it out so that I could tape it above my desk in my cubicle at work. Hope you don't mind. I feel like you are expressing a situation from my own life. (I was a traveler and met up with my oasis but did not move onward. I married her 15 years ago and hope to be with her to journey's end!). I just need to know why you wrote this poem. Does this express a personal experience?

Dona:  The poem, "The Oasis" was written very recently and has to do more with friendship than with romantic love, although it could also apply to that. I have recently found a couple of friends, the kind of persons who seem to understand what I am going to say before I even say it, kindred spirits. And I have one very special friend, a poet, who is very ill at this time with cancer and I think she had about given up hope of finding someone with whom to share her love and her thoughts. In her loneliest hours of suffering, friends and loved ones have come to be her "Oasis" and we who love her want her to take that love with her to the journey's end when she must move on. So, I guess that LOVE is the Oasis I was trying to express. And-oh,yes-you have honored me by posting my poem where you work. Thanks so much!

(01/13/00 Stacy N., Montclair, N.J.)
Dear Dona, I love your poem "Favorite Memory" as I can well relate to what you are saying. It is a very beautiful poem. It flows so smoothly and just seems to be so well planned. I need to know if you structure and plan out the messages of your poems and if you write and rewrite and take out all the "lumps" and then polish it. Exactly what do you do to have a poem like "Favorite Memory" express a thought or feeling and make a statement about something so smoothly? Your poems seem well designed. How do you design them?
Stacie N.

Dona:  That particular poem was like a song that you can't get out of your head, only this one doesn't have a tune yet. I do write and rewrite many of my poems, but this one seemed to come out of nowhere. Well, maybe not "nowhere" since it did have an inspiration. I was thinking about unrequited love, and especially about a friend of mine, one of my women friends who is very ill with cancer. Her nickname is "Rockie" because she is a fighter, and during the course of her illness, although sick and in pain, she managed to achieve a black belt in Taekwondo last summer. What actually inspired this poem was something I know about her: that she has never married and that more than once her heart has been broken when she fell in love and then the person married someone else. I dedicated this to her (the real title is "Favorite Memory, a poem for me and my friend, Rockie"). Most of the time a poem must be rewritten several times. As an English teacher, I admonish my students constantly not to be too easily satisfied with their first drafts, and so it goes with a poem. But the bottom line with poetry, to me, is not so much in the "design" as in the inspiration. Thanks for your kind words, Stacy.

(01/14/00 Judi Ford (Sweetdove), Indiana)
 Dona, Your poetry is some of the best I have ever read. I am honored to know someone as talented and giving as you. My question is...can we look forward to more of your poetry being posted here in the future?
Thank You, J

Dona:  My dear Sweetdove, I am not sure how many of my poems will end up on the Poetheart site, but I know that I am honored to have any of my work posted here. I will continue to send Jay poems whenever I can, as his opinion of my poetry is very important to me. If he chooses to include any of it, then I will feel that I have done well. (And so is your opinion important to me, my dearly beloved poet friend).
Affectionately, Dona

(01/17/00 Joe B., Freehold, N.J.)
Dona, I enjoy your poetry and think that you are very talented. I am curious: What is YOUR opinion of your poetry? Please be honest and thanks for answering my question.
Joe B.

Dona:  Dear Joe: Thank you for your kindness. My own opinion of my poetry? Well, sometimes I am satisfied with it because it says what I want it to, but other times I rewrite a poem several times and still am not satisfied. I can honestly say, though, that I get a lot of emotions out by writing my poetry, so it serves that important function. I am happy, though, when someone else likes it. Thanks!

(01/17/00 Mary L., Connecticut)
 Donalou, I am really glad you have been interviewed. (I was wondering who the first interview would be!) This gives all of who like your poems a chance to get to know more about you. I suppose I should have a more poem-related question but my question is more on a personal level. How do you know "Jay" AKA "poetheart"? How did you two meet?
Mary L.

Dona:  Dear Mary, I have not actually "met" poetheart-yet. But I would really love to someday. We are internet friends, and I love his poetry site. I submitted some poetry to him, and that is how it came to be there on his site (which, by the way, is a very interesting place visit!). Thanks for asking.

(01/17/00 CMS, Pearl River, N.Y.)
 Dear Dona, I have been visiting poetheart.com since mid-December and enjoy reading your poems on there. The site is very nice and I understand how someone would want their poems put there. Do you get paid for your poems being on poetheart.com? What is the compensation for having a poem online? Thanks.

Dona:  I have never yet been paid for one of my poems. Just having it "out there" for others to enjoy is a pretty good compensation for me, though. Thanks for asking. Once in a while, a poet may win a contest or be published in a book with compensation, but much of poetry is done for the love of it.

(01/18/00 L.S., Newark, Delaware)
 What exactly is "Mt. Nebo" about? Can't figure that one out at all. I seem to keep missing it. Is there a place called Mt. Nebo??

Dona:  Dear L.S., As a matter of fact, there is a place called Mt. Nebo very near where I live. It is a beautiful spot, with cliffs overlooking the Arkansas River Valley. I love to go there and look at the view, and think. I am not the only person who been inspired to write poetry by the vistas from that place. The poem was inspired by the place, but the meaning is that of a wostful desire to know someone without knowing how to talk to them. Does that help?

(01/18/00 Gina Ferrara, Brooklyn, N.Y.)
 First of all, let me say that I think these questions in this question and answer appear to be made up and are probably part of the interview. If you answer mine, then I'll be convinced otherwise. Next you all (if you are individuals and not the same person) seem to have an exaggerated sense of your talents and your expertise. Especially poetheart whose poems are too sentimental and predictable. He is too run-of-the-mill to even consider himself any kind of poet. Donalou acts like she is on television the way she answers those contrived questions. (Now I am sure I will never see this included in that question and answer section!) My questions are these: #1)Does Donalou think that she will really be discovered and published by having her poems on the Internet? Is that her purpose in being on this site? #2)What does Donalou really and truly think about her "talent" as a poet? #3)Why not just have your own poetry site? I don't expect a response to this.

Dona:  Dear Gina: No, I don't have any illusions about my "talent" or about being discovered on the internet. I just love to read and to write poetry, and if others like to read mine, so much the better. I have a regular job, which doesn't afford me much extra time for building my own website though I would try if I had a clue as to how to do it, (maybe). Any suggestions? I am sorry that you don't like Poetheart's work, but other people do, so it's okay. You are, of course, entitled to that opinion (which I don't share with you). And he is a separate person from me, no doubt. He's a man, for one thing, while I am a woman (wife, mom, and grandma). As for the questions in this part of the interview being "made up," well I certainly couldn't have made up YOUR questions! I am sorry that it seems "contrived" but we are doing this on the internet and not face-to-face, so it does handicap the spontaneity of it a little bit. The other part, about my sounding like I'm on TV, makes me laugh. This is the first time in my life I have been interviewed for any reason, so I have no idea how I am supposed to sound. Keep those insightful questions coming--as you can see, we did include yours. One more thing: lighten up, girlfriend! It should be more fun! Dona
*Poetheart comment: poetheart.com is a free site run by just two people (poetheart and his friend Karl). All of the poets are real individuals. All questions are from real visitors to the site. Interview questions are answered by the featured poet, except for Poetheart comments.

(01/21/00 Jack D., Providence, R.I.)
 Dear Dona, I think it's great that as a reader I get to participate in this interview and ask you a question. I like "Fool's Paradise". I like this poem for many reasons. My compliments to you on such an exquisite piece - the idea well presented, very original on an old theme, and it rhymes so nicely (but is not too "rhymey"). I would like to ask you what is behind your writing this particular poem? It is really a very nice poem and I have returned to this site to read it again many times. Hope this isn't too personal. Also, can you tell me if you have your own website? If you don't, maybe you should. Ever thought about it? Thanks.

Dona:  Dear Jack, It is interesting that you prefer that poem, since it is one of my favorites, too. It seemed almost to write itself. The inspiration for it was an old love (of course)-- I was in love with someone who was out reach, and nothing came of it but my broken heart. [Another interesting thing about your reaction is that my inspiration's name was Jack!] I would love to have my own website, but I am pretty ignorant as to how to go about building one. I made a webpage once that turned out alright (on geocities), but I got pretty confused about how to continue it. I would need someone's help, for sure. Any suggestions? Thanks again for your very complimentary comments. It really makes me feel good to know that someone appreciates what I have written. Sincerely, Dona
*Poetheart comment: My friend Karl designs this site and maintains it my specifications.  He does web design, and works for a company that offers low cost web hosting as well.  You can contact him if you are interested in hearing more. webhosting@chaostime.com

(01/22/00 Jozef Pavel, Stroudsburg, PA)
 Dona, I very much like your poem entitled "The Oasis". I also read your explanation of why you wrote it in answer to a question from a reader in your interview. I too thought of it as a love poem at first and then I saw the question and read your answer. I went back and read the poem again. It is both happy and very sad - a paradox. It is very moving and a wonderful thing that you wrote that for your poet friend. I write a little - and some of it is poetry. Much of it written about sad things and situations. Somehow much of what I write is sad and somewhat depressing. I always find it easier to write about such things and it is also a good outlet for me. When things are going well and the happier times or situations, I do not write. My question is a little strange. Did you find it easier to write this poem than some other poems (for instance Mount Nebo)? Do you find it easier somehow to write when things are not so good? Thank you. Jozef Pavel

Dona:  Dear Jozef, Thank you for your kind appreciation of my work. "The Oasis" could indeed be a love poem, and I see it as a kind of "bittersweet" poem, too, as it not speak of a relationship that lasts forever on this earth. I do have an easier time writing, like you, when I am very sad or when I am thinking of sad things than when I am happy. For instance, when my mother died I wrote many poems--it seemed like I could not help pouring out my grief and anguish at that time. I have been accused by one friend of being too morose and depressing, but it is not something I seem to be able to control all that easily, and from your letter, I understand that you are very much the same. To me, whether the poem's mood is sad or happy is not so important as whether it is authentic--that is to say, whether or not it expresses accurately what the poet is feeling at the time he or she writes it. I would love to read some of your poems sometime, too. Thanks again. Sincerely, Dona (donalou99@yahoo.com)

(01/24/00 Janice S., Baltimore, Md.)
 I like your poems and think they show you have tremendous talent. You also seem to be very confident as a woman and use your writing to convey yourself and what you are about. What advice do you have for a woman in her 20s who is interested in making a difference in the world through writing poetry and stories?

Dona:  Dear Janice, Thanks so much for your compliments, especially about my confidence as a woman. That's one of the nicest things anyone could say to me, as I have struggled with low self-esteem most of my life (as many of us have). My advice to you is to write, write, write. Write about what you are concerned about, about how you feel about the world, about human relationships, about feelings, about experiences that have molded you. Be authentic, and others will surely respond to you. Sincerely, Dona

(01/26/00 Janna Fritz, Kenosha, WI)
 Who is your favorite female poet? And which of her poems is your favorite?

Dona:  Dear Janna, My favorite female poet is undoubtedly Emily Dickinson, for she was able to say so much with an economy of words. My favorite of her work is "A Bustle in the House". Thanks for your questions. Dona

(01/26/00 Stan F., Allentown, PA)
 Do you think that there is a general lack of interest in poetry in the world today? Do you think there is a lack of serious poets today?

Dona:  I do not think that there is a general lack of interest in poetry among those types of persons who would like it intuitively, but it may not be loved as much as it once was by students in high school, since they are inoculated with the lazy bug of television and videos that do too much of our imagining for us. I have to be optimistic in thinking,however, that as long as there are human feelings they will be expressed by the means of words: poetry. It may take the form of rock lyrics, or rap music, but it is still poetry . Thanks for your question, which was indeed a challenge to answer. Sincerely yours, Dona

(01/29/00 Dorothea A. Vorweck, Havana, Arkansas)
 It brings great pleasure to read your poetry, since they portray a lot of feelings I have in my head and heart but never put them on paper. My question is, since you are a teacher, do you know if any of your students have become writers of prose or poetry? Dorothea A.Vorwerk-HAVANA, Ar. (richv@arkwest.com)

Dona:  Dear Mrs. Vorwerk: Thanks so much! You have paid me the highest compliment by your understanding. My answer to your question about my students is YES! I encourage my students to write, since I am an English teacher, and it is a source of great delight to me to find that some of them not only enjoy writing but are very good at it. One of my 8th Grade students was recently published by the National Library of Poetry. Jessica Woodall has a poem on their website (www.poetry.com) which I think is just beautiful.

(02/01/00 Bill McCain, Boston, MA)
  Dona, I've really enjoyed coming to www.poetheart.com for the past few weeks. I think it's a great site with always something new being added and lots of visitor participation. It's a real interesting place to visit. Put together real nice. I've also watched your poetry accumulate here and i think it's great that you have a forum as nice as "Poetheart" to have your poems read. My favorite of your poems are "Candlelight" and "Rendezvous". Remind me of my own subjects for poems. I am 28 and have been writing poems for the last 5 or 6 years. Mostly about my relationships. You mentioned being married and having children and grandchildren. My question is what does your family think about your poetry? Have they visited this site to see how beautifully you write and how talented you are? I always wonder because although I write poems, my family never seems to be interested. It's like a world away from my parents and brothers and sisters. Only some of my friends seem interested in my poems. I was wondering if it was the same for you? Bill McCain

Dona:  Dear Bill: That is an interesting question, and the answer is that my family, for the most part, is supportive of whatever I do, but, with the exception of my sisters and my daughters, they are NOT interested in my poetry. I am very thankful to some of my friends and to Poetheart for taking an interest and for encouraging me to write. And, of course, I am very grateful to readers like yourself who have bothered to read my poetry. Your kind comments are very much appreciated. (Also, keep writing! No matter who is interested, you will benefit from doing it).

(02/01/00 Dolores B., Philadelphia, PA)
  Dona, I think that you need to write about happier things. Your poems are sometimes depressing. You seem to always write about sad things that don't work out and tragedy. Do you think that's what poetry has be about? Maybe you have some lighter poems? Maybe you need to write about the good times. Ever think about that? I think you're a good poet but never hear what you have to say about happy things in your life. I am only 23 and I would like to see more positive stuff written about life. How about it? Dolores B.

Dona:  Dear Dolores: You are not the first person who has brought it to my attention that I write too much about hopelessness and tragedy. Unfortunately, those "angst" poems are easier for me to write than the happy ones, but you are right. I am going to try to write more happy poems, as I have a lot in my life to be thankful for. Life is beautiful, love is wonderful, and I am thankful to be alive. Thank you for reminding me of it! Sincerely, Dona

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