Veronica Williams on writing poetry, being twentysomething, and Buddhist perspectives

Veronica Williams is a poet whose collection of work, FOUR YEARS (Part One), explores an existence that sometimes feels defined by limitations. She doesn’t pretend like it’s not often a shallow world. Her occasionally mature poetry is lyrical and contemplative. Veronica discusses her approach to writing and her particular underdog perspective in the following interview — right after a bit of her poetry:

If I play the damsel,
I am weak
The women will scorn me.
If I play the iron flower,
The men sorely resent me.
I am too much
If I go myself.
Excerpt from Veronica William’s “# 4

How would you describe your approach to writing?

My approach is all over the place. Over the years, my regimen has evolved from a prim, proper, streamline affair to “eh, whenever the wind blows me in that direction.” I’m very last minute for things like blog entries and school work. I’m spur of the moment with my poetry. That’s the only part of me that isn’t programmed on a schedule. It’s more like “I’m feeling these words,” and there’s a pressure in my fingers to get it off my chest. My muse is pretty cruel about this, getting at me when I’m far away from my computer, or I can’t quickly open up NotePad or Word.

I pretty much stopped trying to approach creation like a tactical process. Rushed pieces are always the ones I regret. Although I end up being strapped for time with items that have a due date, I feel like “Veronica has spoken” when I approach the task at hand. My approach depends on my mood. I always ask myself what (if anything) I want to work on to exercise my brain, my craft, and my dusty writing folder. (There’s a lot of old material in there that needs to be finished!)

When I’m in the writing zone, I approach it based on emotions. Even reports have some emotional drive. Poetry becomes all those jumbled thoughts I’ve never dared to say to people. In some cases, myself. I admit things about long-lost lovers, family, and fears in my head. I reassure myself, I examine myself, sometimes I get mad at myself through the stanzas. I also think of other people. I’ve learned so much about the 20’s stage that has changed everything I THOUGHT I knew. I spend a lot of time on Tumblr, and I absorb the things my friends talk about. That inspiration helped me find a new approach–exiting from self-centered creations to “messages for everyone.”

In FOUR YEARS, there’s an ongoing exploration of where your persona fits into the world. You write about ‘fate,’ a little bit, which seems to mean established hierarchies. Do you think that’s a part of life that’s too often disregarded?

I think that it’s something that most people are very aware of. Some, more than others. I think we all have our moments where we wonder where we fit in, IF we fit in, and how we can maintain that establishment. I personally have never felt like I fit in anywhere. So, during that time period (pre-poetry book), there were things I got tired of writing about over and over in online blogs.

I was very unhappy with how my early to mid 20s were panning out! Oh goodness! I had all these ideas of what it meant to be in my 20s, and when none of these things were happening, I started to question myself heavily through my work. I began to feel like fate was really playing a trick on me, keeping me at the “underling” level on purpose.

I don’t think it’s a part of life that’s disregarded. Probably not constantly discussed. I especially think that there’s turning points in one’s life where people–even those who are established–ask themselves where and how they fit in the world. It’s a moment that may spark movement to change! It becomes especially true once you’re officially out of the teen years, and you’re out in the world establishing who you are as a person. It’s not always a smooth transition.

Can people really know how they fit into the world if they don’t know about their relative privileges or lack thereof? Neither of these things are natural so much as they’re crafted, and letting either define one’s life seems to be the only kind of fate I can think of.

OOOH! Such a deep question! So many layers to unpack! For the most part, I think people have a general idea. Once we become “established,” sometimes it might feel so strong that one would say “this is it.” When life happens, sometimes people are taken out of where they’ve been fitting in for years…sometimes decades! So, it’s probably knowing how to fit in that moment, which isn’t always promised. Indeed, neither of the circumstances of fitting in are natural.

This reminds me of how my religion sees karma! As it stands, there’s the non-Nichrien Buddhist way, which considers karma to be a bad thing. Aka “karma is a b!” It’s seen as something coming to “get” you. In Nichiren Buddhism, I learned not so long ago (like, literally a month ago at a meeting!) karma works in terms of “good outcome,” “bad outcome,” and “neutral.” The thing is, it goes either way and pretty much “just is,” but in our lives, we have the power to work around human suffering and become better people. We can learn from the bad things and keep the train moving.

For some of us underdogs, I think that we may stare at greener pastures, thinking all is well. Sometimes, it is. However, it doesn’t mean it is for us. There are things that person has done to get in that place. There are things we can do, but it doesn’t mean we’ll get the same result. When I looked back at the earlier poems, I began to realize this. My path was different from all my friends and classmates. My path was my very own, and I had journeys to make before I could have the love, the family, or the career I wanted. But I was frustrated! So back then, I wasn’t considering the fact that “fitting in” didn’t work in the perfect way it seemed to be for everyone else. There was one thing missing: I wasn’t putting myself out there. Or, when I did and got hurt or rejected, I decided NOT to dip a toe for a long time.

For some of us underdogs, I think that we may stare at greener pastures, thinking all is well. Sometimes, it is. However, it doesn’t mean it is for us. There are things that person has done to get in that place. There are things we can do, but it doesn’t mean we’ll get the same result.

Some things we will lack. Some things we are blessed to the rim with and do not even know it. It’s about as unnatural as the day is long, and it takes a long time of living, learning, and re-learning. Even my 61 year-old father is realizing this!

As someone who thinks FOUR YEARS is largely a quality collection of poems, I have to ask if you thought there were any other venues for it besides self-publishing.

I have to be 100% honest; I was not ready for the rejection of the traditional route. My goal was to get the first half of my poetry book I’d been carrying for years out into the open. This was a writing challenge. I wanted to prove to myself I could devote some time to what I loved. Despite all the “nay, nay” opinions, I did it anyway. I think that I let the work of other writers get to me. Rejection is a part of the process. So is critique! I made the mistake of comparing myself to other writers. So, as I doubted myself, I didn’t feel like I was ready to submit. I had a moment, made a choice, but gained confidence in the process!

I wanted to prove to myself I could devote some time to what I loved. Despite all the “nay, nay” opinions, I did it anyway.

Once I’m done with part two of the collection, I will bite the bullet and submit my next collection of poems to a non-self-publishing venue. Self-publishing was an interesting experience, but it fried my brain a little bit. I did a LOT of blind clicking in the beginning, constantly going back and revising all on my own. Once I got the preview copy in my hands, things changed. I was very, very proud of myself for completing part of a major project. It was, in fact, the very first piece of work that was technically published outside a digital form. It was a great feeling. I’d LOVE to re-live that moment with a publishing team, however!

You mentioned Buddhism earlier.   Why do you think it’s appealed to you?

Nichiren Buddhism was something my next door neighbor introduced me to after seeing me in the yard, burying my parakeet Ganymede. From then on, I attended meetings and went to the SGI Center here in Chicago, where I just learned and absorbed SO SO MUCH. It appealed to me because it spoke directly to the issues I’d been writing about in my book. Existing, improvement, finding myself. It also spoke on how having faith and being active in changing your life (as well as those around you) was an important part of being human.

The themes of finding courage, looking within–they hit home. I even had a chance to share my poetry at one of the meetings, which made a few members cry! It was really something. It introduced me to a new way of thinking and seeing life. While things aren’t perfect, solved, and healed, I feel like they’ve got the great potential to keep changing day by day. Buddhism opened my eyes to the fact that I’m here for a reason. My existence in this world means something!

I think it appealed to me most because it spoke to my questions about fate. I began (still learning) to learn and understand that while suffering is indeed a part of life, making changes and having faith are very important. Also, having love and concern for others’ happiness. To make a long story short, it just opened floodgates of understanding on all the questions I’d been asking myself since I was a teenager.

 Thanks to Veronica for her time.  You can follow her on twitter @MzWilliams08 and find out more about her work here:

and here:

and last (but not least), Veronica’s poetry blog:


One response to “Veronica Williams on writing poetry, being twentysomething, and Buddhist perspectives

  1. Pingback: Interview With The Roni | Musings of a Strange Catbear

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