INTERVIEW: Lisa Haselton Interviews Author Jen Payne

Welcome, Readers. My special guest today is poet/author/photographer Jennifer Payne. She’s sharing a bit about her new collection of poems, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. (Click Here to read the full interview!)

What do you enjoy most about writing poems?
Many of my poems show up as whispers of ideas. Maybe one line or two that reveal themselves…suddenly, from out of nowhere. That’s the most exciting part—that magic! Then…what comes next? where will that whisper lead me? To your question, what I enjoy most is allowing the poem to show up and become what it needs to become, allowing myself to be open to the creative spirit so I can tell the story.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
One of my favorite poems in the new book is called “Microcosm.” It’s about two separate encounters, one with a spider on my desk, and one with a fish by a pond—and me, wondering what they might be thinking about as we crossed paths. You know, in that same way you wonder about the lives of people in the lit-up rooms of houses you drive by at night?

The spider had a curious look —
not curious as in odd,
but curious, inquisitive, intrigued.
I saw him from the corner of my eye
watching me, then rummaging
through a pile of paper,
back again for a second look,
peering as if to say Who Are YOU?
(or WHAT I suppose)
Perhaps the same look of WHAT?
the fish had as it soared over the pond
yesterday afternoon…
Who are YOU? to the osprey,
and WHEN did I learn to fly?

Another favorite is “I Am Just the World.” It was one of those poems that just showed up, as I was saying before. I was walking on my favorite trail in the woods, and heard the something crawling. I followed the sound and found a spotted turtle making its way through the fall leaves. Spotted turtles are listed as a species of concern/endangered, so this was a very special sighting. And poignant.

I Am Just the World
Pay no attention.
I’m just here
beneath these trees,
their forgotten leaves
warm from the sun.
Never mind
my slow traverse,
I’ll step aside for you.
Make myself small
so you forget
I am light and love,
the god to which you pray,
the universe upon my back,

I think some people take offense that I anthropomorphize the creatures I meet in the woods – give them personalities and narratives. But, it’s not like I think they are skipping around in the forest singing and such. I use personification to get the reader to think outside of themselves, to consider the other creatures with whom we share this planet. We’re all connected…that is, ultimately, the theme of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, and of a lot of my other writing.

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I write mostly free form poetry. It’s simply how my muse speaks to me right now. However, I have been working with a group of local poets, the Guilford Poets Guild, for the past few years. Very often they write in specific forms— a sonnet, a villanelle, haiku. I’ve been thinking I’d like to challenge myself to look to form a little more in my work. That could be fun!

What type of project are you working on next?
For the near future, I’ve been thinking about publishing a short story I wrote called “Water Under the Bridge.” It’s an epistolary novella told through a series of emails. And then another book of poetry, but that won’t be for several years.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember — grade school creative writing, high school newspaper, college journalism, freelance writing, zine publishing. For the past 25 years, I’ve been the wearer of all hats – editor, copy writer, marketing wordsmith – as the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design business in Branford, Connecticut.

I maintain a regular blog, Random Acts of Writing ( on which I write essays, travelogues, book reviews, flash fiction, and poetry.

I have written poetry for much of my life, but have gravitated to that form almost exclusively for the past three or four years.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
Just write. That’s my advice. It’s very easy to get caught up in the “business” of writing – editing, researching, preparing, submitting (and waiting), then doing that all over again for the next poem. I call it “hoop jumping.”

Better to just make time to do the writing, perfect your craft, connect with other writers. Just write.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I do my best writing at 3:00 a.m. I love the quiet of the early hours of the morning, before anyone else is awake. There are no distractions – none of the bells and dings and buzzing of our social technologies. Just sweet dark quiet…and coffee.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Honestly? I wanted to be Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. I loved her little bottle house! Wouldn’t that be a great place to write? Plus, she had magical powers. What could be better than that?

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes. Don’t fight with your craft. Let it be. Let it do what it wants to do. I see a lot of angst-ridden memes about writers. Quotes that talk about the suffering we must endure, the anguish of writer’s block, the agony of rejection letters. Forget all of that and Just Write. Here’s a great quote to think about from writer Alan Moore…

“To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head – and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It’s an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that’s not the most important thing. It’s the work itself.” ― Alan Moore

(Hey! So, maybe I have magical powers after all.)

Thanks for being here today, Jen.
Thank you, Lisa, for this chance to talk with you and your readers about writing and my new book!

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!


Prima Materia

The snake when it sheds its skin surely must pause,
writhe at the discomfort of leaving part of itself behind,
wonder at the scars and marks of time,
consider for a moment its perverted trail,
the bending, winding path of ending
the bending, winding path of becoming

Am I the ouroboros?

The alpha and omega?

Or am I nothing at all?
Soon to be your ashes,
the dust and duff of the forest,
the peat of your mythology
and the lies you tell yourself.

Photo & poetry ©2016, Jen Payne

Am I good for you?


I had a chance to watch Jack Goes Boating this week – a fascinating portrayal of how people respond, react, and transform within relationships.

The movie follows two couples. Clyde and Lucy are a seasoned, unhappily married couple whose relationship spirals downward in the course of the film. They have affairs, talk disrespectfully to each other, cling to addictions, and otherwise behave selfishly and without regard for the other.

We meet Jack and Connie at the beginning of their relationship — from their first date in winter through the following summer. In contrast to their friends, Jack and Connie blossom, individually and as a couple. We watch as they let go of patterns that have kept them stuck and solemn, and we witness them embracing the challenges of being in an intimate relationship, supporting and encouraging and loving each other.

The title of the movie relates to the film’s catalyst: that Jack must learn to swim before he can grant Connie’s wish to go boating in Central Park.

In the final scene of the movie, Jack and Connie are talking:

JACK: I’m a good swimmer.

CONNIE: I knew you would be. When we talked about summer. You’d be good at swimming.

JACK: I am for you.

CONNIE: Good at boating.

JACK: I am for you.

CONNIE: That you’d be good.

JACK: I am for you.

Jack is saying “I am good for you,” and we immediately think he means he’s “the one.” He’s good for her. He enhances her life. But it struck me that what he is really saying is that he is good for her, because of her – he behaves in a good manner for her.

As their relationship grows, we watch as Jack works hard to improve himself. He applies for a new job, buys a new suit, learns to cook, learns to swim. Unlike their friends, Clyde and Lucy, Jack chooses to step up, be better, take responsibility.

It all made me think — am I good for you?

Not just you the boyfriend or you the best friend or you the nephew, but you my relationships, and you my community. Am I good for you? Por vous? Do I do my best to behave in a good manner, treat you with kindness and respect, improve myself so collectively WE are better?

Am I good for you?

Think about it.

WORDS ©2015, Jen Payne
IMAGE Earth, Jean-Michel Basquiat

Friday Gratitude


Today I am grateful for the refresher course in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. These simple statements create a ripple effect of understanding, compassion and grace, both internally and externally, as we lead by example.

Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally: 
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions: 
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best: 
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

• • •

Text from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Photo by Swiftblue. Please click here to see more of his stunning photography, including this one: a small Buddhist statute of a monk in prayer. This photo was taken at Hase-dera, a temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan.


Mea Culpa


I’m sorry.
I should know better than
to meddle,
to question,
to interrupt your flow.

Who am I to second-guess
your intentions?

Every time I do —
every time
I end up in tangles,
somewhere I’m not supposed to be,
like stepping in chewing gum.

All I can do now
is let go of the rope —
give up
step away.

Hopefully I caught it in time
this time
and everything goes back to how it should:
your intentions,
my ego,
your plan.

• • •

©2013, Jen Payne
IMAGE: Teacher’s Order, Nicholas Roerich, 1931