Introducing Rebecca Whitman: Yecheilyah’s 5th Annual Poetry Contest 2022

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Today, we introduce you to Rebecca Whitman, whose poem “Moment of Truth” placed fourth in our fifth annual poetry contest.

Rebecca, Welcome to The PBS Blog!

What is your name, and where are you from?

Rebecca J. Whitman, eastern North Carolina.

When did you first fall in love with poetry?

My earliest memory of anything I said I wanted to be was a writer. More specifically, I wrote that I wanted to go to college for a Bachelor’s degree in Writing. I was seven when I wrote that, and I did go on to accomplish it. I majored in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. I have been writing poetry all my life.

That’s awesome! “Moment of Truth” is a powerful poem. What was the inspiration behind it?

“Moment of Truth” is about a relationship where one person is always feeling a little more love than the other, and it traps them. I also challenged myself to use beach and water imagery because I live in a coastal state. I felt the beach imagery reflected the ebb and flow of their relationship as well.

Brilliant. I love the risk you took in putting a twist on the theme. It’s like the person yearns for freedom but can’t quite grasp it. What went into your decision to end the poem the way you did?

I love poetry that has unexpected endings and lasting imagery. I also wanted to stay true to what happened to the characters in real life. They remained friends but only as long as the one (speaker) silenced her own feelings about the other. She thought freedom was tied to him loving her, but that was something he could not give. She could only find freedom when she stopped expecting him to love her in return, but that also was her prison.

Wow. Powerful. If you could have lunch with your favorite poet, living or dead, who would it be?

I love a lot of different poets, old and new, but I think the one who changed me the most was Michael Ondaatje. He was my first experience with mixing non-fiction and poetry. He also left a lasting impression with the depth of sensory detail in his imagery. If I could, I would love to sit and talk to him about his work.

Nice. What inspired your writing journey in general?

As cliché as it sounds, reading inspired my writing journey. I have been exposed to some amazing writers and traveled through time and space with their words. No other occupation ever seemed so magical and weighty to me as that of a writer.

I was in love with reading too so I feel you! It is definitely the driving force behind the first study of writing for many.

Are you into spoken word?

I have read my poems before a live audience, and I have recorded readings in the style of spoken word. It was intimidating, but it also freed me up to explore the work in a different, empowering way.

Yes indeed. Rebecca, what does freedom mean to you?

Freedom is both a right and a privilege. When I think of what it means to be free, I think it means the ability to have equal opportunity in life. In America, we talk a lot about freedom. We say it is a right our forefathers fought for, but it is also a privilege. Not everyone can freely say and do what they wish the way Americans do.

What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in poetry?

I have never seen poetry as a career–it is more a form of expression as near to me as breathing. I can’t write at all without eventually coming back to it.

Being a published poet is a game of endurance and persistence. You need to be willing to put in the work to master your craft. It takes time to find your voice and perfect it. You also need to be open to sharing your work and gleaning from criticism. Some of my best advice came from peers in writing circles in college when I was too scared to share my heart on paper.

Get involved in as many contests and publication opportunities as you can because poetry publication is all about getting your work seen. When you are ready, pursue opportunities to publish whole collections of your work.

Please, tell us about your books/work.

I write regularly on my blog, The Bohemian Princess Journal, at rebeccajwhitman.com. There are over 150 posts there intentionally designed to inspire and build community. I am also working on poetry, short stories, and non-fiction for publication locally and internationally.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

As a writer, I hope to see more work published diversely as it is now. I would like to see growth in how many readers I have around the world. At last count, I had readers in over 70 different countries.

I know that’s right. Now, let us dig into this poem!

Photo by Tuấn Kiệt Jr.

“Moment of Truth” by Rebecca Whitman

I let you lead me across salt-cured planks

of yellow wood, greyed by time in the sun.

I walk on water, yet oceans stand

between your heart and mine.

How long will the wind

be more curious to play

with my hair than you are?

How long will you hold my hand,

Tell me your secrets, and

Deny me your name?

Am I still a departure

from everything you think

you want for yourself?

Is loving me still an anchor

pitching you overboard

from your freedom?

I look up at you with angst,

longing to be the girl who lives

in your shadow, and warms

your bed.

You squeeze my hand and smile,

refuse to say the words

that will make us more.

I build sand castles

around my heart and live

barricaded.

20220707_115057
Rebecca Whitman, 2022.

Rebecca J. Whitman is a high school English teacher by day, and a local news reporter by night. Though that sounds like a super hero bio, she believes the real power lies in developing work/life balance and enjoying her life. She lives in Eastern North Carolina with Bachelor and Master’s degrees in English and Writing. She shares her writing regularly to an international audience on her blog. When not working, she enjoys travel, art, writing, and quality time with loved ones.

Websitehttps://rebeccajwhitman.com/

Instagram: rebeccajwhitman

Bloghttps://rebeccajwhitman.com/the-bohemian-princess-journal-2/

Are You A Poet Looking for More Exposure? Go to yecheilyahsannualpoetrycontest.org and join the wait-list for our 6th Annual Poetry Contest 2023!

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Yecheilyah

I write to restore Black Historical Truth for the freedom of all people. Visit me online at yecheilyahysrayl.com and @yecheilyah on IG and Twitter.

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