Ever been told you think too much? Ever been told you don’t think enough? That’s the problem with thinking, how do you know when enough is enough? Here’s the problem with thinking — a thought is not real until you either say it or write it. Fortunately, Teri Foltz is there to guide us.
Foltz’s new book is entitled The Trouble with Thinking. We got together the other day to discuss her new book, writing, teaching, stand up, and life after retirement. You know, the usual stuff. Oh, and if you have never had lunch or coffee with her, well, make it point to do so.
Each section in the book, in fact each poem, functions as a meditation on a particular experience or event that sheds new light on a larger subject. Foltz is and always be a teacher - and an excellent teacher, at that. Many of you experienced that at Highlands where she spent the majority of her career. Retirement has gifted her the time to pursue other passions like playwriting and poetry. The Trouble with Thinking is her second collection of poems. Her first is Green and Dying.
She says, "I’ve written a lot since the other book. I have, I don’t know, 80 poems and so I narrowed them down and discovered that they fit into categories. The book is organized by the things I think about. And most of my poems are either about writing itself or school or God.” And don’t think that Foltz’s writing is sweet. Instead they are examinations of some of our harsher emotions and events. Each serves as a reflection on particular topics that are universal.
Foltz points out that the first and last poems are bookends beginning with The Trouble with Thinking and leading us to The Curse of Overthinking. In between is our shared world of anxieties, fears, common experiences, questions, and unsatisfactory answers.
Teri Foltz doesn’t specialize in any one medium. She is a poet, a playwright, a standup comic, the YouTube host of Teri’s Play Date, and she wrote a television situation comedy pilot. Each one exercises a different language muscle.
How did standup influence her poetry? She says, “Standup taught me how to write because it was the hardest writing I’ve ever known because you have to choose your words so carefully and be economical with your words and save some words for the end and you can’t use it twice otherwise you dilute it.”
She studied with former national poet laureate Billy Collins. His favorite poem is A Musing about breakfast beginnings in a barnyard where a chicken lays the egg while the pig in the pen next door becomes the punchline. It is amusing as well as a musing. It’s clever wordplay like this that makes her book appealing.
What does she get out of writing poetry? “I am happiest when I am writing. I’m not one of those people who write everyday. I’m not disciplined at all. But I get urges to write often. You know, I’ll be watching television and I’ll be writing a poem on my phone. I wrote a whole play once listening to Ken (her husband) play at York Street Cafe. I just get, I don’t know, I just get inspired to write. It’s a muscle I have built. It wasn’t always like that. I think I gave assignments to Creative Writing students that I wanted to write so I would have excuse to write it as well.” She laughs.
What have you learned about yourself from this? “I’ve gained a lot of confidence in who I am because all of these poems are really personal. And so I’ve gotten to know them myself. And gotten to like myself which has not always been easy in life. I always doubted myself. It’s about time that I like myself….That I’m fascinated by people, all kind of people. I want to know everything about everybody.”
I will say this, if Fort Thomas decides to have a poet laureate then Teri Foltz should be it.
You can order her books on Amazon. She will also hold a reading, book signing, and sale on Tuesday, January 25 at Headquarters, 935 Monmouth Street, Newport from 7:00 - 9:00 PM.