On Searching and Being Led: Both in Writing and in Life, and How Everything is Connected by Martin Willitts Jr.

What I like best about contemporary poetry is the variety of types of poetry and poets. There seems to be room for everyone. I tend to read everything in poetry whether it is online or in a magazine, attending as many readings as I can, purchasing poetry chapbooks and books, from rap and slam to experimental to formal to haiku to everything in between. I had an article one time that I listed some of the many new poets that I have read, and that was a short list off the top of my head: http://www.freewebs.com/rarepetal/interviewwmartinwillitts.htm.


I open myself to beginning writers as well as to published writers, listening and sharing with anyone who will talk and share. I do not belong to a college, writer’s center or workshop, or teach poetry. I stand alone and connected as much as possible. I write 20-40 poems all at once which are theme related, and I write like a Jazz musician in terms of rifting on a theme.


To me, it is all part of “Quaker Practice” of being open, listening to the “Spirit”, meditating, going on a Spiritual Journey, being “in the Light” (in the presence of God), “holding in the Light” (praying), “walking joyfully in the Light” (think of it as being in ecstasy). I am a Mystic and a Healer, “centered in the Spirit”. According to many people, this is all mumble-jumble; but it explains where I am in my life and my writing. As a Seeker, I am constantly trying to find “that which is God in all of us.” Think of it as realizing we are all connected, from the smallest atom to the infinity of the cosmos, and without one thing (if it dies or is destroyed) we risk the fabric to be broken. We are in a symbiotic relationship with other things. A good example of this was the Silk Worms.


There were a lot of silk worms in a certain area. People built factories to take advantage of the silk worm industry and it created jobs. Jobs created more people and security for those people, who built houses and other businesses. Then someone saw how the silk worms were living in certain trees, so they destroyed the silk worm nests. The problem was the trees were dependent on the silk worms and so were the factories. When they destroyed the silk worms, the trees become sick and depopulated, factories closed, people became unemployed and moved, and the community became poor. The only thing good that came out of that tragedy was that I wrote and published a poem about it. I would rather have the trees and silk worms. 


I try to be centered. This means that I meditate and try to keep negative things and feelings out of my life. It opens me up to other experiences. I love to go out into nature and experience things, but I can accomplish the same results through Guided Imagery. This leads to many poems and how things are related. This is probably why so many of my poems are about nature and the relationship of everything to everything.


When I am centered in Silent Meditation, I am open to what will happen next. In our Quaker group, we speak during Silent Worship if we get a message from the Spirit and we feel that it is from the Spirit and not from the Ego. We believe we are meant to share that message and it is meant for someone. There are many meetings were nothing is spoken, and there are some meetings where a lot is shared. I think this is why so many of my poems are Persona Poems.


When I began on my Spiritual Journey, there was much in the Bible that I could not reconcile. I doubted much of what I studied. But in my quest, I found a more personal relationship that lead to my being more centered and my healing abilities increased. I am careful when I say that I am a healer because I am limited of what I heal, how I heal, and I cannot cure anyone of anything. But this searching meant I was willing to be led. I had to be open to “what-is-next”, just like a Jazz musician improvises on a theme. This path has lead to my writing some really long poems, as well as some very meditative religious “Psalms”.


Now that I am an ecstatic, everything is so exciting, so vibrant. I do not fear death. I do not fear anything. It has increased my ability as a Peacemaker (Quakers teach “Peacemaking”) and it brings peacefulness to others. This feeling increases my ecstatic relationship with my creator and people notice. The other thing they notice that at 63 years old, I have the energy level of a 20 year old. I go to a slam or hip-hop event and I do not feel out of place. I have been involved with the local Occupy Movement in terms of donations and telling them how to handle crowds, so our local group has not been evicted. I retired from a supervisor position and within a day I became an AmeriCorps Member at one-sixth my salary and I feel so vibrant again. I have to do teambuilding and community building all over, from scratch, from the bottom. I could not do that if I was not centered.


All of this is connected. It all is from being centered and from empowering my openness. It has increased (if that is possible) my writing. It brings me closer to other writers and hopefully guides and supports them.


I feel so blessed and honored every time I have a poem accepted, or a collection of poetry published, or have someone (such as Seth) request an interview. I am into the awe of someone thinking my poems and opinions are worth anything. I believe that I am the smallest insignificant voice in the universe, temporary as a snowflake, humble in the Spirit. Whether I give a poetry reading to one or more people, I hope one person likes what I wrote and it affects them. I hope that a person reads one of my poems, goes back to it, and sees something different. I want two people to see two different things from the same poem, just like two people disagree about a painting. If I do any of those things, I feel I have done something as a writer. I feel if any writer gets the attention of any reader, then they have something special. Even if the other person does not understand the poem, or hates the poem, or says it reached them, then the poet has done something important.


We wonder if we have an audience, or if anyone reads us. I say, it is the idea of writing that is important. It is not the acceptances (although I love them) or the rejections (I understand them), but it is the reaching-out and saying “I have something to share and I hope you enjoy it.” It is the countless editing to make a poem better and being open to constructive criticism: (http://networkedblogs.com/rxadn) and (http://caperlitjournal.weebly.com/4/category/martin%20willitts/1.html).


I say, embrace all the differences in poetry and read other poetry. Read this magazine and others. Encourage other writers. Be open to constructive criticism. Listen to anyone and everything. Do not worry if you are a good poet or a bad poet, because poetry is a subjective taste. Like what you like in a poem and understand that there are other voices out there in the world. If you listen to within yourself, you will hear something astounding. I just hope that I have told you something that will help you. I hope you find your path in life.