It’a a Writer’s Life–Page 7–I Didn’t Plan to Become a Poet

Becoming a poet just sort of happened to me.  I dabbled in poetry, but my dream was to become a writer.  A cousin of mine, Mary Harper Sowell,  who was an accomplished poet invited me to a meeting of Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas. “You need to know who the poets are,” she told me. I attended a  meeting and I met some very fine poets from Arkansas, and as time went by, I met  poets from other places, as well. I learned about poetry. I learned poems are not easy to write. They require a form or a pattern.  They do not come into a poet’s mind as a finished product.  They enter a poet’s mind one word, one main idea, one thought at a time.                                               

Mary Harper Sowell, my cousin–the accomplished poet and teacher–has passed away. Results of her teaching can still be seen in my work as I continue to create poems using methods she taught.  She encouraged beginning poets.

She taught me how to write a sonnet.  The following is a sonnet that won a place in The Arkansas Poet Laureate Award given in honor of Arkansas Poet Laureate, Peggy Vining at Ozark Creative Writers’ Conference at Eureka Springs Arkansas in 2009.

Safeguarding Baby Owls

The eagles fly from dawn until quite late
above the Copper Mountain’s winter site–
a scene no painter tries to duplicate
of aspen trees beneath the snow of white.
The screeching owls, like helpless refugees
who fear the consequence of evil hands,
still build their nests inside the redwood trees.
So brave, the tall tree, like a sentry, stands.
If I could choose two types of trees to keep
from chainsaw’s teeth and jaws of mulch machine,
I’d save the aspens on the rocky steep,
and redwoods–place where screeching owls convene.
   The eagles then could fly from Aspen Park
   to redwoods guarding baby owls at dark.

c Copyright 2012, Freeda Baker Nichols

8 comments on “It’a a Writer’s Life–Page 7–I Didn’t Plan to Become a Poet

  1. Resa, I have some of her chapbooks on how to write poetry, and they have her poems as examples. I can have copies made for you. Also some of the anthologies may still be available for sale. I will check for you. She spoke of you and Rana often as well as her two other grands. She was a good poet and friend to me as well as a third cousin. Thank you for your comment.

    I believe her middle name was Lois.


  2. Resa Dowdy says:

    My grandmother was Mary Louise Harper Sowell. I only have a few poems by her an would love to read more. It would be like sitting in her lap again listening to her talk and read to me. Any help would greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,


  3. How lucky you were to have someone help show you the ropes in an area as (in my mind anyway) daunting but rewarding as poetry.


    • Yes, I do feel lucky. I always liked writing little rhymes, as a child. But didn’t seriously pursue my interest in writing until later on in life, after raising my family. And now, since I’ve been published, it’s fun to share my work with others, around the world. Hard to believe sometimes. Many changes since my childhood evenings of “catching fireflies” on Banner Mountain.


  4. Martha York says:

    Very nice., really like this
    ..How was Mary Harper Sowell related. I’ve heard of her and one time Mother sent me some of her poetry that I believe was in the county paper.


  5. Yes. Mary loved poetry and loved sharing her knowledge with others. She definitley saw to it that I followed the iambic pentameter (exactly) in my sonnets. It seemed so easy for her. Crafting a sonnet is not that easy for me, but I love trying.


  6. Catherine Johnson says:

    That’s beautiful, Freeda. To have a poet in the family to learn from must have been wonderful. Now you carry that legacy forward.


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