The author of over 1,000 poems has much to take delight in, managing to publish 45 of them in reputable poetry journals, magazines, and anthologies. Her writing ranges from three-line haikus to three-page poems and most-often delve into the subjects of family, nature, and the inner spirit.
Inspired by a creative writing class, Ethelsdattar, 65, first began dabbling with poetry during her final year in college. But she never pursued the craft until the late 1960s, when a series of life-changing events put her in a reflective mode that warranted a creative outlet.
To start, she found herself a divorced mother raising two children. A few years later, in 1968, her twin sister died after a bout with Hodgkin's Disease. On a broader scale of world events, it was the same year that Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated. "When you're experiencing intense emotion, it's very helpful if you can get it on the page," Ethelsdattar said.
In addition to the therapeutic effects of creative writing, Ethelsdattar became hooked on the process of crafting a poem. "I used to have fantasies in college of [writing] the 'Great American Novel,'" Ethelsdattar said. "To my surprise, I found myself a poet, not a novelist."
Indeed, the craft has captured her thoughts for most of her adult life. "I'm a believer as much in process as product," Ethelsdattar said. Her process, however, is anything but rigid. There are three desks in her home on Ogden Avenue and she said she never writes at either of them. Instead, she finds herself writing on the kitchen table, in the bedroom, or outdoors where she carries a notebook at all times. "I rarely write to an order. Sometimes I'll just get an image and it will almost be like I have to shape it with words."
In reference to her work, Ethelsdattar said she has never written a formal poem and enjoys producing pieces that create vivid images and good rhythm.
In the early 1970s, Ethelsdattar published her first poem in the Washington D.C. women's newspaper Off Our Backs. She said that she consistently sends out her work to different magazines and publishing houses listed in the back of trade journals geared toward poets. "Poets don't make money," she said of the business, remarking that a free copy of the publication is often considered payment.
Published poetry, a lofty achievement in the literary world, has surely given Ethelsdattar the confidence she needed when she embarked on this creative journey over three decades ago. However, the hundreds of rejection letters from magazines have also prompted her to take a more hands-on approach to the publishing process by producing her own "chapbooks." These do-it-yourself booklets give her a chance to see collections of her poetry assorted thematically with titles like Cat Poems and Woman Artists & Women as Art.
Earlier this year, Ethelsdattar took her self-publishing a step farther and put together an anthology of her work titled Earthwalking & other poems.
In her titular piece "Earthwalking," Ethelsdattar discusses her relationship to the natural world: "Alternately I am a woman walking / barefoot on the earth / & then the ribbon swerves, it turns over; / I am the earth, / my body has become the earth."
The poems are often complemented by illustrations drawn by friends and her grandchildren. She has already began putting together her second collection, Thou art a woman.
Earthwalking & other poems can be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, or Xlibris.com.