With the arrival of Easter Sunday, this sweet collection of inspirational poems seemed appropriate. Please join me in welcoming Verna Mitchell with her debut collection of poetry, Don't Frighten the Pansies.
Poems in this collection will make you laugh and cry and reflect upon your own growing-up experiences. Most of all, you will be encouraged by reminders of God’s forever goodness and love. Verna Cole Mitchell is a poet, teacher, editor, and published author of poems and short stories. Don’t Frighten the Pansies, her first book of poetry, contains some of the poems she has written through the years. Whether you enjoy the pictures of God’s world she paints with words or her descriptions of the security and hope He offers, these poems will inspire you.
An Interview with Verna Mitchell
Tell us a little about yourself.Recently adding the title great grandmother to wife, mother, and grandmother as part of my identity was a wonderful blessing. A happy addition also to the designations of teacher and editor was author of a published book of poems.
Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
I never planned to be a writer. Before I had a fat pencil, I wrote with crayons. In fact, the first writing I remember was proudly printing my name in red crayon on the side of our white house—in preparation for seeing it on the front of a book I’d written, no doubt. My mother was not impressed.
I can’t, like some authors, say that I wrote a book when I was a child, but in early years I loved to make up stories in which I was always the heroine. I enjoyed writing letters. The mother of one of my friends said after reading them, “You’ll be a writer someday,” and so I am. It was only after I began teaching that I found my favorite writing genre to be poetry.
When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?
I think every person who spends a great deal of time writing has a dream of being published. I have published poems and pieces through the years in various venues: magazines, newspapers, and websites, etc .For some time I have been seriously considering a poetry collection to leave as a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I was wondering what steps I would take to accomplish this when a good friend who is an editor/publisher (Lorraine Fico-White) insisted that I should write a book which would be for everyone, and she proceeded to guide me in the process. Thanks, Lorraine!
What inspired the idea behind your book?
The inspiration for many of the poems in my book came from Faithwriters’ Writing Challenge, a weekly contest. It is hard for me not to accept a challenge to write, and I’ve entered often in the past six years. With topics provided, writers have the opportunity to write in prose or poetry. The entry is not required to be spiritual in context, but it must be good clean writing. Editors’ choice selections are scheduled to be published in books or in on-line magazines, and I’m looking forward to seeing more than 35 of my entries in those publications.
What do you have in store next for your readers?
I am working on a second collection of poetry, which is divided into six themes: From the Bible; The Church; Family; Praise and Encouragement; Images; and Aspirations. As in Don’t Frighten the Pansies, there are poems of inspiration, encouragement , and humor, laced throughout with my personal experience and yearnings.
What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?
My greatest pleasure as an author has been having my family take pride in my work and having people tell me that they enjoyed my poetry. I love the comments from people who have read my book, like the waiter who said, “I could just see my grandmother in the poem about the cookies,” a friend who said, “’The Baptized Cat’ is worth the price of the book,” and a lady I’d never met who wrote, “I keep your book on my bedside table and read a poem every night.” One friend’s stepfather said that a poem brought him encouragement at a time when he really needed it. That particularly surprised me because I had not written it with a purpose to encourage. Poetry touches us all in different ways.
Tell us the soundtrack to your book.
The soundtrack I would choose for my book would be The Sound of Music. There are definitely more than a few of “my favorite things” in it, and I hope the sound of the music in my poetry is alive.
Which authors and books have most influenced your writing style?
My writing style has been greatly influenced by the poets I studied with my students when I taught English in secondary school. Some of my favorite authors are Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Sara Teasdale, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, and Langston Hughes. There are many other American authors, as well as British and Scottish authors, that I admire, but I think you get the picture.
If I were to select a book that has had a strong influence on my writing, it would be Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I don’t know of another author who has demonstrated greater skill in descriptive prose.
Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen/pencil for writing?
Most of the time, I use my desktop computer for writing, but I like to keep a notebook and pen in the car for longer trips to record thoughts or images. A notebook on the dresser comes in handy if I get an idea during the night that I’m afraid I won’t remember in the morning, and I have been known to write a notation of a sudden inspiration on a church bulletin.
Describe your book. Why readers should pick it up?
Don’t Frighten the Pansies has poems with descriptions of nature (one of my favorite reviews called these “splashes of color), along with poetry of inspiration, encouragement, and humor. There is personal experience in verse that invites you to reflect on memories of your own childhood days. The variety of topics and poetry styles offers something for everyone.
How did your book come to life?
My book came to life after Lorraine and I had edited and edited and edited it, and then my granddaughters, both graphic designers, added their touch. Allison Tucker designed the cover and arranged family pictures in the back, and Stephanie Smith formatted the pages, including the illustrations for division pages. I was glad for their ownership in this project that brought joy to all of us as a family.
Enjoy a selection from Don't Frighten the Pansies
In every morning just at dawn, God turns His sounds of nature on.
All through the day, His symphony plays heaven’s music endlessly.
The wind that in the willows sings repeats the whir of angels’ wings.
As turtledoves commence to coo; they’re seeking sweethearts soon to woo.
In summer, swallows, swooping low, are humming, crooning as they go.
A choir of birds has varied call; the mockingbird will trill them all.
The geese go honking as they fly across the sullen autumn sky,
And dry leaves, drifting from the trees, are rustling with the passing breeze.
In winter, soft, the sweep of snow brings whispers to the land below.
The sleet that pounds with icy ping, drum rolls staccato with each sting.
As raindrops bring spring flowers cheer, they turn their heads so they can hear;
Then with the rhythm of romance, to patter of the rain, they dance.
The gale brings warning with a growl, then drops blown tree limbs all around.
The evening storms reverberate with roaring thunder until late.
The rivers rushing to the sea, create a lilting melody.
The surfs of ocean pound and crash repeatedly on shores they lash.
In mating calls, the animals compete with crashing waterfalls
To play their parts instinctively—no stranger concert could there be.
The bullfrog belts out loud “kerthumps” to echo in the pond he jumps.
And then at night the owls ask, “Who? Who played this program just for you?”
Perhaps God uses a baton to wave His music off and on,
Or claps His hands in accolade for this recital He has made.
Meet the Author
Verna Cole Mitchell attended Southern Wesleyan University and graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University. She and her husband, Leon, have lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, for 47 years. They have two children, four grandchildren, one great grandchild, and they joyously await the arrival of a second one.
A secondary English teacher for 37 years, Verna is currently an editor and a writer, whose work has appeared in a number of publications, including Teachers of Vision, Looking Back, and Lucidity Journal of Verse. Also, she serves as one of the devotional writers and as an editor for her church’s website.