Excited about my first book review. Wanted to share it with my friends. Although the book has been out now for several years, it is still a viable collection of poetry.
To Celestine McMullen Allen, mankind is a rare and beautiful fruit on the tree of life. Today is your chance to discover an author with a unique conception of life.
Cendrine Marrouat: Hello Celestine, thank you for answering my questions. As a starter, tell us a little more about you.
Celestine McMullen Allen: To know me is to understand me as a child. I have always believed that we are products of our environment. I also believe that knowledge is power, and self-knowledge provides all of the answers, if only we are discerning. In some uncanny way, I knew this as a child. I always yearned for knowledge, and had this balance of academia and creativity. No, I was not a “true scholar” nor was it important then to proclaim that area of my life as who defined me. Contrary to what some of my instructors may have thought, I catalogued, I listened, I learned; storing the knowledge until it was time for me to use it. “A rebel with a cause” may have defined me. Being the youngest of seven, I had big shoes to fill. Being raised in a family of educators; I had bigger shoes to fill. Yet, there was this other side of me that needed to be me; whatever that meant.
My life was to follow a unique path. I knew this as a child. I had only to “live” until that fate found me. It was as if my understanding was shown as an “observer”. I could always stand back, and watch life playing before me. Emotions; good, bad, and indifferent; were articulated in several creative expressions of me. I saw a glimpse of it in my ability to “feel” crescendos; to pulsate with the intricacies of dance movements; or experience the adrenaline flows of an athlete; or to understand the parallels of nature and life as I wrote. This is where my true evolution began; all because of my life “under the pecan tree”. Eventually, and inclusive of my career as an HR professional, all of these emotions melded into stronger expressions of my words; my ability to truly understand and relate to people and my ability to understand human emotions was the end result.
As a child, I did not know exactly what all of this represented. As an adult, I have embraced it, and am now ready to share the voice of my soul. I can peel back the layers and let my words” erupt like a volcano” or let them “flow like a smooth river song”. And through this evolution, nature, starting with “the pecan tree”, has given me an understanding that her cycles provide the perfect backdrop for this understanding.
CM: Your collection, “Voice From the Soul of Trees” has a very interesting title. Why such a choice?
CMMA: “Unless the seeds are planted as such, there is not a forest of oneness.”
The title of the book again, goes back to my childhood as well. The original title of the book was to be “Under the Pecan Tree”, but decided to take a more universal approach to the title.
I grew up in Sparta, Hancock County, Georgia. The pecan tree is indigenous to the area. In the backyard of my homestead was this beautiful pecan tree. It was old and gnarly and provided the perfect place for playing with marbles, making mud pies, Saturday mornings of gathering her fruit for bounty, or raking the leaves as the seasons changed, and gaining life wisdom. I did not realize the power of the tree nor of watching my father have conversations with people from all walks of life who sought his wisdom. He was a wise man, a counsellor, who had such a profound perspective on life. I watched and listened to the wisdom of my father who shared his voice to people in my community. He took no position; he only spoke to what was real, to what made sense given the circumstances, and to what was right as an individual. He let no one pigeon hole him; he kept his convictions about how his life should be led. I am the seventh of seven; I share his voice.
That pecan tree represented in its purest essence, the evolution of life; and in its evolution, the tree changed with the seasons. It represented a life cycle – barrenness in the winter, new sprigs of life in the spring, full reigning glory in the summer; the fruit of life in the fall; and again, reverting to barrenness in the winter. Are we ever stuck in one season? No. Does life consistently follow the path of springtime? No. Does hope show us that it will evolve again in the spring? Yes.
My book not only parallels the marvels of nature to life, that tree helped me to understand the essence of man. I could listen to the words of my father, and I understood that life should have an unbiased perspective, regardless of the variety; albeit representative of the many cultures and nations of our world as we know it. As eclectic as we are, we should never forget that we share too many similarities that we can’t ignore the basics of red blood, regardless of skin color or cultural origin.
End of part 1.
Cendrine Marrouat is a freelance writer/reviewer, blogger, published author and translator living in Canada. Official Website: http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com
Cendrine Marrouat: Your book features inspirational poetry and prose. What first sparked the idea of mixing both genres?
Celestine McMullen Allen:
“I want my words to be understood,
I want my words to be free
I want my words to flow like a river in your soul.”
This quote epitomizes my writing style and why I chose to combine poetry and prose in the collection. When I first started writing, I had no clue about poetry forms. I just knew it was natural for me. When I wanted to express an emotion, the words just came. Most of the time, they had a natural rhythm, even with the pieces of prose. Just as we experience life, there is not structure. Emotions are not, nor can be boxed in. I only wanted the freedom of true expression in my poetry.
Even though I have written most of my poetry to allow for individual interpretation, I did not want my readers to have to work too hard to figure out the core essence. When I am inspired, I do not sit down and plot it out, I just write.
This question of form is quite interesting. I have always wondered what category I fit in. I have only had one professional review. My poetry has not been critiqued to determine the specific genre that it truly fits in.
CM: Would you share an extract from the book?
CMMA: The signature poem for the book is “The Tree of My Voice.”
Let the virtues of man
Shine through the trees like a sunrise
Let the wisdom of life flow through me like a sunset……
…Let the age of her message speak to man
Her glory reigns beyond principalities
Beyond regions, beyond continental divides
Oceans and beliefs
For a tree planted in due season
Shall bloom and bear much fruit
Seeds, spewing forth
Yielding nations of men united….
CM: How have people reacted to your collection, so far? Have you noticed a difference between American and Canadian readers?
CMMA: The reactions to my book have been quite fulfilling since its release in August 2010. I was elated to receive the proof copy of the book and considered it as a birth of “love” for mankind. My first book sale was like receiving a rare jewel. I didn’t know how the words were to be received. I was just following a path. As we know, people enjoy poetry differently. Some of the readers of my book have told me that they have just enjoyed taking a poem at a time, taking the time to savour the message. Some of my readers have identified specific poems to which they can personally relate to and understand because of their life experiences. These are my favourite. Others share their expression of awe for the overall messages of embracing the trials and adversities of life that is portrayed in the collection. Others have told me that they have read the poems and tried to figure out the inspiration or why I wrote the poem, or what I was feeling when I wrote it. Actually, one potential reviewer told me that the book was too personal. Yes, it was personal, even though the collection was written from a “one size fits all” perspective.
I have only lived in the United States, but through my personal and professional affiliations, I have met people from many different countries. To speak to a difference between Canadian and American readers, I can only answer that I personally have no blinders in terms of any perceived differences; we are all humans. This is how my parents raised me. This was a part of my “life lesson under the pecan tree.” Canada does intrigue me. To such a degree, that I looked into living there. The appeal being the cultural aspects, the eclectic population, the geography, and the progressiveness of the country combined with the historical aspects and traditional values of life that the country portrays.
From a humanistic perspective, I see no differences other than those “personal experiences” that shape us as individuals. Hearts hurt, hearts love, and hearts heal. People experience personal anguish and people have the personal wherewithal to overcome it.
I, like you, Cendrine, provide reflection of these messages in our poetic voice.
End of part 2.
Cendrine Marrouat: You chose self-publishing. Is there a particular reason behind this choice?
Celestine McMullen Allen: It was a scary proposition to tackle the process of self-publishing a book. You have to draw upon many skills; skills that to some degree, I amassed over the years, being a decent poet; being a marketing professional, being an editor, being a creative being, and of course, depending upon the budget that you have to work with, being your own public relations firm.
I had these grandiose dreams that when I did the compilation, the world would be at my doorstep to publish it for me. The reality is that I had to embrace the fact that there are a lot of authors, authors who feel just as strongly about their work and who are more talented than me. There are many poetic styles – which category did I fit in? Who was my target audience? With so many unanswered questions, I still knew that I had to “birth” my book. I entered poetry contests to validate me as a poet. My first collection sat on the shelf for years; until recently; until now – a God-fated moment.
When I became serious about the project, I started my research into publishing options. After sifting through all of the publishing options, reading the reviews, I decided to just trust my gut. This translated into a relationship that I developed with the sales team at iUniverse. I trusted them. Garnering my trust was the deciding factor in utilizing that group to publish my book.
And of course, with no one beating down my door to publish my book with traditional publishing houses, I knew that I “needed” to get my book in print.
CM: How long have you been writing?
CMMA: Cendrine, I have always written. As a child, I just wrote; sometimes to keep my emotions in check, and sometimes to express an inner feeling of awe. I always sought places in the country (the woods, down dirt roads) or near water (fords or other local bodies of water). I would make posters with my poems and showcase them in my bedroom. I don’t have these anymore, but would love to read some of my early writings. In high school and college, I loved doing essays and interpreting works of literature. I wrote a play that was actually produced at my high school. My English teachers saw my talent and motivated me to hone my craft. Professionally, I utilized my writing in the development of business communications, new business proposals, marketing collateral, and training curriculums. I eventually began entering poetry contests, winning some contests, and eventually understanding that I would publish my first collection of poetry.
CM: What do you wish to achieve through your writing?
CMMA: As the book suggests, I want to share my voice. Sure, I would love for it to be recognized as a great collection of poetry that can be technically evaluated against the “greats”. Yes, I would love for the book to be a subject of book clubs throughout the world, and yes, I would love to see huge royalty checks. But most importantly, I would love for the book to inspire someone. I would love for just a line of my poetry to have a positive impact on the life of someone. Between you and me, and your readers, I would love for my words to shape how we emotionally manage life. And of course, what poet does not dream of being a Poet Laureate?
End of part 3.