From the Nile to the Victorian Age: Writing History into Poetry
Today I am most pleased to welcome to my blog the multi-talented and extremely capable Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. Erin has always been the first out of the gate to help me, another writer, whenever I’ve asked. She has reviewed my books, done interviews with me and used her multitude of talents for my advancement over and over. For a list of those talents just take a look at her email signature:
Publicist, Editor, Writer, Journalist,
PR and Marketing Professional
Addison’s Compass Public Relations, Owner
Yup! That list is at the bottom of each and every one of her emails to me. And she has one of the most pleasant personalities I’ve ever encountered. Thanks so much, Erin, for joining me here today.
Erin is also a poet and a few months ago put out Breathe. Breathe., a collection of her poems. She says it has been so well received that a more formal edition is planned for the next few months. Meanwhile here is her guest post:
From the Nile to the Victorian Age: Writing History into Poetry
By Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, author of BREATHE. BREATHE.
As a poet in the modern age, I often hear people dismiss poetry as a style of writing they don’t read, or stereotype it as mushy love musings, or even simply that they don’t understand it. I’m glad that readers have thought enough of me as a person and writer to at least tell me they will attempt to read mine, but what I long for is that they will come away with a better appreciation of what poetry can be, which urges them to think outside their box (and that readers who don’t know me will be swayed to pick it up and appreciate it). I can understand the apprehension about some of the poetry that’s out there today. I, too, have a hard time understanding the structure, the meanings, and the feel of some of the mainstream thoughts which seem a little bit of a re-working of older quotations. However, what I’ve tried to do with my own writing is just to put the emotions and feelings I have (stemming from my life experiences) down on the page, or write about what I have been inspired by, to channel the images in my mind to paper. The effect that they would hopefully have on readers is that they’d at least be able to capture the images in their mind too. You know when you read a book and it’s so good you feel as if you’ve watched a movie? That’s what I hope to do through my poetry as well, to create snippets and scenes for readers that are highly visual, and in some cases, visceral.
Recently I had a limited edition poetry and short fiction chapbook published by Unnerving Magazine, a print and online magazine that also publishes a select amount of standalone collections, novellas, and novels. Called BREATHE. BREATHE., it encompasses two sections of poetry—one about breathing through pain; the pain of spousal abuse, rape, illness, anxiety, and more darkness of the human race, and the second, about breathing through fear; the fears that we house from childhood, in our lives, in our blackest nightmares, monsters, serial killers, etc. The two short stories are dark fiction as well, one based on the mire of human nature, which I penned after being inspired by Crayola discontinuing their dandelion yellow crayon, and the other, a story spawned after I had been reading about an Egyptian goddess named Anuket, which I coupled with a recurring nightmare I had in my childhood of being drowned.
For some of the guest articles I am writing in promotion of my book, I have written about the reasons for writing my chapbook, for instance, because some of it was based on my own personal experiences. It was therapy. Since Elaine herself is not only a lovely person and host, but an author of a spectacular series I’ve loved of historical books in her Loyalist series, I’ve decided to switch gears and tell you a little about how history influences my work, even this dark fiction chapbook.
I’ve always been interested in history, reading books of historical basis from a young age, and then getting a bachelor’s in history (as well as journalism and English) mostly just because I enjoyed taking the classes (and maybe had a bit of a dream of writing for National Geographic). So not only does the Goddess of the Nile, Anuket, make her presence known in one of the short stories within this chapbook, I also feature a poem of a Native American tribe’s “spirit of winter” who wreaks havoc when the icy frost appears for its season, which is a real legend. Sometimes my poems, though dark as featuring a serial killer or an unknown creature, are set in various eras, such as the Victorian era or the Gilded Age. I almost prefer, unless using my writing to deal with my own past or present fears, to set my characters in the past.
After the success of my limited edition work, which sold out, the publisher agreed to publish an expanded print and digital version of BREATHE. BREATHE. to enable more readers to enjoy my work. I’ve been busy writing not only stories of various dark fiction genres and styles, but more poetry that has allowed me to play around with time periods and characters from the past. That’s where my forte for history and the Gothic comes in and I have loved every minute of the creation process. It’s fun to imagine me in the mind of a character, whether on the end of giving or receiving evil intentions.
Poetry is much more than about love, though some of mine is about the wrong end of love as you might see if you read my almost gut-wrenching words, but about a slideshow of the past as well. My poems could be the start to a story, as I’ve had readers ask me for more about a character they’ve been given a sneak peek of, or they could seem as a scene from an Agatha Christie novel. I gather my inspiration from mystery and historical fiction books, magazines, from non-fiction reading on Native Americans or myths and legends from various time periods, and from movies. However, I gather a good amount of inspiration from road trips with my partner, Tim, and our three kids to art and historical museums and locations, the shores of Lake Erie—where historical lighthouses, buildings, and shipwrecks abound (oh, and lake monsters?), libraries, and nature. My family is used to hearing all my new ideas for pieces of work as we drive home. You’d think they’d roll their eyes by now, but they don’t, and I appreciate so much all the encouragement they give me to showcase a woman of the 1890s (you know, the one with the dark eyes and with the white gloves in the photo at the museum), a Viking legend read about while looking at an artifact (what did he use that weapon for?), a French spy from the French-Indian War (how did she feel?)….
Poetry gives me a great outlet to practice my sentence skills, to create lyrical phrases, or to condense action. It’s actually good homework and a way to download from your brain to your pen. Emotionally, this is a wonderful therapeutic way to encourage healing in yourself and others. For those non-emotionally driven poems, say with the historical bent or that of a Gothic character or monster, I always say if I think a story deserves more, or the muse hounds me to it, I can always turn that character or scene into a longer story later. But if not, or until then, why not let others enjoy scenes from my head in giving them something to ponder, and if they want more, let it ignite their own thoughts.
In late September, my poetry and short fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., will be publishing in its expanded version with a brand new cover and will be available for order on Amazon in various formats. I hope you’ll take a chance on the stories and the poetry, which readers have told me read more like tiny stories rather than a honeycomb they can’t get through. In all seriousness, reviewers, fellow authors, and readers have called me “brave,” and my writing “emotional and raw” and “action-oriented.” For those that enjoy history, I hope you will enjoy my dark tales and poems featuring historical characters as well and that they will transport you to another time and place. Though these are Gothic and darker in nature, I hope to one day publish a collection of historical poetry too and I plan to keep working on my historical fiction novels and stories that are in the works. I would love for you to follow my writing and connect with me on social media. I always love to hear from readers and fellow writers.
Thanks so much to Elaine for her friendship, support, encouragement, and tireless personality, which serves as such an inspiration to me.
Find me online at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com for news of my writing, author interviews, and reviews of the latest books I’ve enjoyed, most of them historical fiction.
Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography
Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is the author of BREATHE. BREATHE., a collection of dark poetry and short stories published by Unnerving Magazine. She will also be featured in the upcoming anthology HARDENED HEARTS, also publishing by Unnerving at the end of 2017. Erin has been a writer for over 25 years, knowing she’d never stop writing after winning her local newspaper’s essay contest in high school, moving on to garner degrees in history, journalism, and English. A professional editor and writer for over 20 years, she also works in public relations, marketing, and publicity, currently owning Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, the latter from which she offers editing and marketing and publicity consulting and work for writers, authors, and publishers across many genres. She also is a co-host on The Mando Method Podcast with her Marketing Morsels segment, offered on the Project Entertainment Network and available on iTunes and iHeart Radio. She has a wide range of interests (such as hunting treasure on the shores of Lake Erie and perusing bookstores) she enjoys when not driving her three kids to a myriad of activities or cooking them somewhat healthy dinners. Don’t worry, she balances that out with lots of baking. She tries to squeeze in writing, even if her cat always chooses that time to sit on her lap (or notes). Erin and her family live in rural Ohio. Find Erin on almost all social media outlets and at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com.
And now back to Historical Fiction and my Loyalists: