Originally posted on March 23, 2015
by Lana Bluege
Marketing & Social Media Editor
We are beginning a new series of posts that will profile the authors featured in our latest volume, Metamorphosis. Learn more about the Metamorphosis volume here. Click this link to order this and previous volumes.
Fern G.Z. Carr contributed the poem “Whose Air Did I Breathe?” to Whole Terrain’s latest volume, Metamorphosis. It is a beautiful piece, drawing together science, mystery, humor, and awe. Formatted in the hinted shape of a double helix, she weaves in elemental abbreviations to make a joke and to mystically connect past and present. We recently interviewed Ms. Carr to learn more about her path to poetry and to gain insight into “Whose Air Did I Breathe?”
Whole Terrain: Tell us about your work as it pertains to Whole Terrain’s emphasis on reflective environmental practice.
Fern G. Z. Carr: While I have written in excess of six hundred poems, I do have to say that some of my favorites pertain to reflective environmental practice: in particular, its impact on the lives of animals. More specifically, some of these pieces deal with topics such as conservation, loss of habitat from urban encroachment or pollution, wildlife management, and ecosystem balance.
WT: What attracts you to poetry as opposed to other writing forms?
FGZC: I am drawn to the succinct nature of poetry. It is compact storytelling which compels the poet to choose his or her words with the utmost of care. Poetry is a literary form where each word counts and ideally contains the perfect nuanced meaning.
WT: Did you have an environmental awakening in your life?
FGZC: I have always been concerned about the effects of urban encroachment on animal habitats. This was driven home very powerfully by an explosion in the rabbit population in my area. Irresponsible guardians abandoned their unwanted pets to fend for themselves. I confess that my well-intentioned daily feeding of these rabbits contributed in part to the imbalance. The city considered these animals to be an invasive species and initiated a cull. Luckily, after much public outcry, an environmental group was given a contract to house, spay/neuter, and care for these beautiful creatures.
WT: How would you describe your piece published in Whole Terrain‘s Metamorphosis volume?
FGZC: “Whose Air Did I Breathe?” is a poem within a poem whereby the first and fourth lines of every stanza could stand on their own. The italicized second and third lines provide contrast, which in several stanzas reflects evil or a loss of innocence. These dichotomies are nested within the overarching themes of interconnectedness and conservation.
WT: What drew you to the theme of metamorphosis?
FGZC: I was drawn to this theme by virtue of two opposing views of the universe. The first reminded me of Franz Kafka’s delightfully quirky novella, The Metamorphosis, which took place in an absurd and surreal world — a world that allowed a man to transform into an insect overnight. The second is my appreciation of the universe in which we live, a universe where transformation is a vital part of our life cycle.
WT: How would you answer your own question, whose air did I breathe?
FGZC: I’d like to think that I’ve breathed the air of those dear to me who have since passed on, so that in an indirect way, their essence is still with me.
WT: What inspired the particular piece you submitted?
FGZC: Believe it or not, while I was drinking a glass of water one day, my husband (with a smile on his face) told me I was drinking trace amounts of Julius Caesar’s urine. I therefore decided to do a bit of research about the recycling of atoms to see if that was true. This proved to be the impetus for writing my poem.
WT: How do spirituality and nature connect in this poem and for you?
FGZC: Whether I describe them as mutualistic or interconnected, I believe that spirituality and nature are intrinsic parts of the whole. It would be incomprehensible for me to conceive of one without the other. “Whose Air Did I Breathe?” is a manifestation of that mindset.
WT: What do you see as your contribution to the environmental movement?
FGZC: I have initiated a recycling program, participated in advocacy campaigns and have served as President and Director on the Board of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I base many of my daily lifestyle decisions on sound environmental practices. It is my hope that if as a result of reading my poetry, someone acquires a heightened appreciation of the natural world, I will feel as though I have accomplished something special.
WT: If you could share one piece of advice to those submitting pieces to Whole Terrain in the future, what would it be?
FGZC: Write about something that is genuine — something truly meaningful to you in terms of your values and beliefs. The sincerity and passion will shine through.
Bio: Fern G. Z. Carr is a renowned poet, a director of Project Literacy, former lawyer, teacher, and the past president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A member of the League of Canadian Poets, she formerly served as Poet-in-Residence. She composes and translates poetry in five languages. Ms. Carr is a 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee with hundreds of publications worldwide. Some of her poetry was assigned reading for a West Virginia College of Law course: Lawyers, Poets, and Poetry. Ms. Carr was honored to have been featured in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. She was also honored to have had her poetry set to music by a Juno-nominated musician and to have had her poem, “I Am”, chosen by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate as Poem of the Month for Canada. Ms. Carr even has a haiku currently orbiting the planet Mars aboard NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. More information about Ms. Carr’s accomplishments and literary works can be found on her website at www.ferngzcarr.com.