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Thoughts on Reading…

This year has already been a tumble of experiences that feel completely unreal to me. It began in January, where I had the opportunity to read the title poem of my forthcoming book at Powerhouse Books in Brooklyn. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how I would do with that, it’s been a long time since I did anything resembling a performance. Throughout my career I have often had to speak in front of people, either to present business plans or to educate others in my field. I’m comfortable speaking in front of a group and doing those things. That led me to believe that I might not have any real issues with reading my poetry in person.

I’m usually the person in a group presentation responsible for calming down everyone else. So, though I felt nervous, I figured it would pass. It turns out that reading something intensely personal is a different experience. I had the chance to talk with another poet at a recent open mic and he said to me that he feels poetry reading is different because you’re inviting people into a strange little world that belongs only to you. That’s definitely true. When I write poetry it’s a solitary experience. Sometimes poems happen all at once and others come out lines at a time over days and weeks. I never force a poem to come out of my mind and I tend to let them grow organically. I don’t censor myself. The result of that can be poetry that makes others uncomfortable, including myself. Having those words on a page and sending them out to be published or to be read by others is still a less immediate experience than reading them aloud in front of people. Even though I understand all of this logic, it doesn’t mean that I process it without emotion. That emotion is what works me up before reading and takes a tremendous amount of energy.

When I was in high school I was involved in competitive policy debate and forensics. I did everything from debating resolutions for social policy changes to dramatic interpretation and duet acting. This was an ultra competitive sport to me and if I look back at some of my fondest memories they are surrounded by preparing for and participating in these activities. The confidence and passion I felt helped drive me to achieve. Aside from the external awards and accolades, I found that it really lit up something inside me. I have been missing that for a long time. I remember my debate coach approaching me on a bus and asking me to help out by filling in for someone in the Poetry Event. This didn’t involve knowing anything about poetry. It involved holding a small binder with a poem selected by the participant and giving a dramatically interpretive reading. If he had asked me to give an extemporaneous speech about whether or not the United States should legalize euthanasia (an actual topic at one time), I would have been more comfortable. But, I was a team player so I agreed.

All along that route, I read the poem over and over to the back of the bus seat. I worked on hand gestures, I tried to understand what the poem was saying to me and how I could express that to others. I’ll be honest, though I was willing to do it, I didn’t have the kind of heart invested in it that I had in the events I had prepared for over the last several months. I didn’t worry about being ‘good’. I knew I was going to go compete in rounds where others had been preparing on a daily basis and where others were passionate about the work. I was just filling in and I would do the best I could.

Something strange happened when I stood in front of the room for my first round. As I opened the binder and took a deep breath, my voice lifted into the air and I fell into that poem. The moment electrified me and it informed every other performance I had during that weekend tournament. I received a third place medal that day and it was the beginning of my love for poetry. I wrote little poems in secret, tucked them into my prose. I never shared my own work with anyone. I felt ill equipped to write poetry, even though I was drawn to it. I never dreamed I would be reading my original poetry and performing it as an adult. Maybe I wanted to dream that, but I wasn’t quite brave enough.

Now, I am.

I’m starting to find my physical voice, after working for the last year to find my authentic voice through verse. It’s a process. Sometimes my voice shakes at a reading and I get frustrated by that. But, I’m finding that the more I do it, the more my confidence grows. I feel empowered putting my words out there, standing up and saying ‘hey, I want you to hear this!’ More than that, I’m enjoying it. I’m still working on how to care for myself before and after performances. I’m still working on how to handle the jitters and the adrenaline that like to flood my system. I have so much support from my loved ones and friends in the poetry community and that counts for a lot.

I will continue to read and I’d love it if you came to watch me. I love even more to meet other poets and people interested in poetry. So, be sure to check out my Events page to find out where I’ll be next!

Publication Update: Mother, May I?

Mother, May I? is the title of my debut collection of poetry that is set to release now on April 25, 2019 from Animal Heart Press. Pre-orders continue via my Bookstore .

There are two options for pre-orders. The first is simply the book, which will ship directly to you from the press. The second option is for one with “Grace Notes”, which is how I refer to my annotations. If you choose the annotated version, you’ll get personal handwritten notes alongside some of the poems, as well as my autograph in the book!

Additionally, if you pre-order within the month of March (in either format), I’m including a never before published poem about motherhood in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.

I recently received the proof copy for this book and it is beautiful. I’m proud to have my name on this book and to share it with the world. The outpouring of support for my poetry has been tremendous and I am so thankful for everyone involved. This really is a dream come true for me and the beginning of a poetry career that I never thought I could have. Every book purchased helps support my dream and vision as a poet and I’d love it if you purchased a copy.

If you’re in the NYC area, I’ll be reading from Mother, May I? as part of our launch at Pen & Brush in Manhattan on May 1, 2019. I’d love to see you there and if you have a copy of the book you’d like signed when you see me, I’d be happy to do that!

Thank you so much for reading and here’s to a poetic spring!

Always,

Juliette

woman with firework sparklers

Welcome to 2019

Posted by Juliette van der Molen on  3rd January 2019

There’s so much to say about last year. This website was a culmination of my writing efforts for the year, as well as the support I have received from friends and loved ones. I was fortunate enough to find a writing community that welcomed me with open arms. Month after month, I found myself learning more about how to approach publishers, where to read and how to make my voice stand out. I’m grateful for all of the help I’ve received and the real friendships that have been forged.

All of the work put into 2018 has laid the groundwork for an upcoming year that I can hardly believe. I’ve got two books coming out and a smattering of publications to begin the New Year. This won’t be a year for holding back.

I faced one of my biggest fears in December: reading my poetry at a book launch. Within moments of holding my first printed words in my hands I was standing in front of a group of writers and supporters in a bookshop, projecting my poetry via voice out into the universe. It was terrifying, humbling and empowering.

I will always be honored to be part of You Are Not Your Rape, an anthology of survivors that has raised funds to help those surviving sexual assault. I’m thankful that I said ‘yes’ when asked to come and read, even though saying ‘no’ would have felt better at the time.

I am tired of being afraid to use my voice.

On that note, I have two more scheduled readings in January. You can check these out on the events page. I’d love to meet other writers and readers, so if you’re in Brooklyn or Philadelphia please stop by and say hello! I’m happy to sign books. You’ll just have to be a little patient with me. I’m an introvert that doesn’t appear like one in public. I’m not used to having ‘fans’ or ‘readers’. It’s all still a bit surreal for me.

As a young writer, I had many dreams of publication. I wanted to believe that when people told me I needed to do something ‘practical’ that they were wrong. I ended up going the practical route for many years. I did the things I had to do to pay the bills and raise a family. One decision beget another and then another. It still led me here, back to writing, back to dreams of publication. Those dreams are being realized in a big way for me. I published my first book last year, Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection, with the support of a wonderful publisher Nadia Gerassimenko (aka The Moon Mother) over at Moonchild Magazine. At 43 years old, I realized a dream that I’d had since I was a child.

Welcome to 2019, make it yours!

Always

Juliette

I’ll be the first to admit when I’m new to something and having a site for my writing is definitely new. Here you’ll find intermittent blog posts about anything and everything related to my writing, travels and life. I’ll also be posting upcoming events such as readings and book signings. Head over to the Publications section to find out what’s available to read and/or for purchase. Current Projects will lead you to a short synopsis of writings that I’m working on and information about forthcoming books.

I plan to share excerpts of current works in progress through the blog. But, I’ll be honest. I can’t promise you any regularly scheduled programming— yet. My life is evolving and changing, but the one constant is writing. Sometimes that’s poetry and sometimes it’s creative non fiction or prose. Lately, my themes have been about working through trauma and the resilience of the human spirit, especially as it relates
to the role of women in society.

I have two chapbooks coming out next year,

  • Mother May, I? (Animal Heart Press, May 2019)
  • Anatomy of a Dress (The Hedgehog Poetry Press, November 2019)

It’s going to be a busy year and I’m thrilled that you want to share it with me! Stay tuned as things develop.

Thank you for reading.

Always

Juliette