Life continues to offer me a stream of wonderfully intelligent, sensitive and colorful people who kindly share their stories and their insights with me. Kristi Nimmo, poet, is one such person who i had the pleasure of meeting when she started a writers’ group in Leesburg. Once I met her, I recognized her as the woman I’d often see running full out–not merely jogging–around the streets of our neighborhood. She has a cheerful personality, an infectious laugh, and a rare ability to be a good listener.
Kristi writes fantasy and and is a published poet. Below is short Q & A as well as some wonderful anecdotes from her world travels where she sleeps in both luxury hotels and tents. She has had poetry published in Psychic Meatloaf: Journal of Contemporary Poetry, Numinous: Spiritual Poetry, and Mouse Tales Press. Her latest poem entitled ‘From Beginning to End’ can be found at http://www.carcinogenicpoetry.com
Travel Notes from Kristi Nimmo
Joe, when Paul and I travel, we like to travel light. I’ve started to have a romance with luggage. Some people have romances with shoes or purses, but mine is with luggage. I have this really beautiful Mulholland bag that’s yellow and has a nice design on it that makes me think of India. It’s really for weekend getaways, but it fits well on all the international flights in the storage above me, and so when we go away, unless we’re off on some rugged adventure, that’s the bag I’m likely to bring. That means I’m not packing lots of clothes.
My really big secret to traveling light is to do laundry at the hotels. Paul and I love beautiful hotels. (Did I mention that he’s the best traveling partner because he seems to know absolutely everything about airlines, and he believes in anything being possible.) One of the best experiences I had in a hotel room for sheer beauty was the Noel Coward suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. That was really something to be in this hotel where so many genius, creative-types had stayed. The suite included a hotel butler. I think that the hospitality industry has some of the kindest and most creative persons making a living by being of service to other people.
When we go away, it’s almost as if we are in a fantasy world. For instance, we stayed at the Four Seasons at the Golden Triangle, and we were in a tent with a huge bed and a copper bathtub.
We rode elephants there. We were given mahout suits, and they would smell just awful after the ride, and so we’d leave the mahout suits outside of the tent to be picked up for laundry. The elephants were huge. Most of them had been saved from abusive situations. I rode on an elephant called Bunches of Diamonds, and when I rubbed the top of her head she would flap her ears. She really loved having her head rubbed. I’d like to see her again.
We save most of our dining out time for when we are traveling. Paul and I have picnicked on the Great Wall of China and on a Mayan pyramid in Guatemala and have drunk home brew with people in Bhutan in their farmhouse. To be honest, I’ll go for a club sandwich abroad while Paul puts his fork into anything spicy. I have had great guacamole in Arizona and the best cup of coffee I’ve tasted was in Utah at the Amangiri where I also was introduced to Fever-Tree bitter lemon. If I’m feeling festive, I head over to Leesburg to Del Rio. I love the hard-shell Texas taco. That’s true decadence.
Q and A
Q1. What got you interested in writing poetry?
My first memory of writing poetry was in third grade. The teacher assigned us the task of writing a poem. I thought mine was wonderful, but the teacher chose just one kid’s poem to read aloud to the class. It turned out that the reason that the teacher read the poem was because the kid had copied it, and she was teaching us about plagiarizing. So my first poetry lesson was really about ethics, about being original. At the time, I didn’t understand why anyone would want to copy someone else’s work. I was also disappointed that my poem wasn’t read aloud. In high school, I’d spend my summers reading Rolling Stone Magazine from cover to cover, and there were always these short poems to read in there. My parents had given me an old manual typewriter to write with, and part of the allure was the feeling of writing on the typewriter.
Q2. I know that you have written some stories in the fantasy genre. Could you please elaborate?
You’re referring to my propensity to spin fables, which is a quality you will see in some of the poems I write. I once wrote about a woman who made a boy out of clay, and she sent him down the river. And he comes to life. She went to sleep waiting for him to come back grown up, only she slept into old age, and he returns to her home old too. She almost didn’t recognize him! I’ve written an unpublished novella: Oblivion, A Love Letter to the World, and it’s a kind of poetic fable—people swimming through the underground currents of misery, figuring out how to get out of it. I used to be intensely interested in the writings of Jack Kerouac, also a poet, though most people think of On the Road when they hear his name. His novellas, particularly Tristesse and Visions of Gerard, I responded to when I began to ask the question why people suffer. Writing Oblivion was a kind of musical response to those two works.
Q3 You have a PhD and have taught in college. What courses did you teach and what was that experience like?
I taught first-year composition. It was tough because it was a required course, so it wasn’t as if everyone wanted to be there. Back to the story about the kid in third grade who copied a poem, that was one of my main challenges, teaching people how not to copy, how to be original while still respecting the traditions that exist. That, in my opinion, takes writers a while to grasp. I enjoyed the student’s engagement with William Blake. We did a lot of hand clapping to understand the rhythms, and we read closely, mainly from Songs of Innocence and Experience. I sometimes meet with a couple of women to write poetry. We actually sit down together for three hours and write poems. We usually look at one or two poems together and talk about what’s going on structurally in the poem and will then say, ‘What have we learned from this to apply to a poem that we want to write right now?’ I sometimes think that there is a mistaken notion that writing is a solitary act, when, in fact, it is usually a communal experience, even if it’s only knowing that someone has done this very thing before—putting words down. So, it can’t be that scary! The practice of teaching writing I’ve carried with me to these informal, poetry workshops with my friends who write.
Q4. What kind of writing do you have in mind for the future?
I think that poetry is really where I want to keep my interest. I love all the opportunities to read poetry online on a beautiful-looking screen. I’m headed to Patagonia in the fall and will be taking my notebook with me.