Wild Heart, Peaceful Soul, is a beautiful collection of poems that provide inspiration to strong, vulnerable, badass women who love deeply, sometimes fall hard but always lead with their hearts. It is a deep and gritty, fresh and robust look at the thrill of loving unconditionally, as well as the mental and physical toll that it takes when peace and harmony are sometimes lost in the process.
Drawing on personal experiences from her own journey of the past 30 years, J Autherine delves into the vulnerable hearts of women from around the world, including from her early years in Jamaica. Poems such as Quiet Storm reveal the pain of sudden loss, while The Rebel Soul carries with it that air of doubt or uncertainty we all feel when in love.
The pain and struggle of women who love deeply and pour into others without first filling their own jars is prevalent throughout, as is the reoccurring theme of reclaiming your heart in order to live and love harmoniously.
Wild Heart, Peaceful Soul has the ability to pick you up in moments when you feel broken or not good enough to be loved and provide the strength in the love you always need as we search for the one who is worthy of our love.
Hello there! I’m excited to be speaking with you. First off, what inspired you to write your book?
Wild Heart, Peaceful Soul came from a realization that we all share the same joys and struggles in life. We often don’t share them because we feel alone or embarrassed. If we share our joys, vulnerabilities and pain, we can grow together, celebrate together and heal together. I didn’t alway write my thoughts, however, I realized that almost every time that I would feel deeply about an issue, the words would flow and I stopped ignoring them as random, overly emotional thoughts and started to write them. When I suffered heartbreak or disappointment, I would write several poems each week. I soon discovered that I was not limited to writing about my own experiences. I went to see the play, the Waitress, and was so moved by the story that I wrote the poem, Riding High, which teaches us not to stand in judgment of another’s journey because we don’t know their pain or their struggles. After writing about 15 poems, I realized that my poetry writing wasn’t a fluke. I entertained the possibility that my emphatic heart and introvert brain could collaborate to write poetry that could resonate with others.
That’s wonderful! How did your passion for poetry come about?
The beauty of poetry is its ability to convey an important message in short form. As a child in Jamaica, I spent a lot of time memorizing verses both in church and in school (songs, poems, written word). After moving to the United States, I started reading everything that I could find by great authors, such as Dr. Maya Angelou. Her poems, “Phenomenal Woman” and “Still, I Rise” gave me the courage to walk confidently in the world. I discovered that I was most excited to write when a “heart” issue was involved – love, struggle, passion, heartache, unrequited love. I lead with my heart in almost every area of my life so the inspiration came often and random poems turned into a book.
Books by Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison also sparked my love for issues that are close to the heart of women. As women, we spend our lives caring for others and putting the needs of others first. This often comes at a cost to our emotional and physical health and well-being and Wild Heart, Peaceful Soul doesn’t shy away from the tough issues. Many of the poems in the chapter, Wild Heart, deal with self-sacrificing behaviors that eat away at our self-esteem. The poems in the chapter, Peaceful Soul, are empowering and help us find our way back to being the “Phenomenal Woman” that sister, Maya envisioned for all women.
What would you say are the top three messages in your book?
Wild Heart, Peaceful Soul is about love, freedom, peace, vulnerability and authenticity. It is the heart and soul working together to explore every part of our humanity in order to create a life where we are living and loving harmoniously. The heart was made to love and should have the freedom to love authentically without unrealistic boundaries. Often, we are afraid or ashamed to speak about the heartbreaks and disappointments along the journey to finding love, even with our best friends. The poems speaks to the heart of women on a broad range of subjects – dating post divorce, dealing with rejection, struggling to hold on to our self-esteem when we have been hurt, being caught in the emotional grip of an unhealthy relationship. It empowers by holding a mirror to our common struggles. Another important theme is the ability to live and love harmoniously. Women give so much of themselves to others that their spiritual, mental and physical jars are often empty. Good Enough to Love addresses the temptation to change ourselves in order to find love. The Princess Takes the High Road encourages women to write their own happy endings. Strong Sisters Unite speaks to embracing our vulnerability and humanity and not pretend to be strong when love, counseling, and self-care is what is needed.
Excellent! How about some of your writing influences.
Maya Angelou moves mountains within my soul. When I read her work, I feel like I am journeying with her and feel both the pain and the inspiration. Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman made me walk with confidence; a light was ignited in me, as well as many young women and that light continues to guide our paths. She walked in her truth and combined poetry with activism, using the power of words to shed light on the social and political issues that our society faced.
Can you tell me about your writing process a little bit?
Free flowing through words is the best way to describe how I write. My mind rarely thinks in a linear manner so I dump all of my thoughts on paper and organize them when my mind is clear. Clarity usually comes at 5:30am daily. My body clock goes off at 5am, thankfully before anyone else in the house is up, and I meditate for about 15 minutes, then sit at my desk and write for at least 30 minutes getting the family out the door. If I am writing non-fiction, it is a disciplined process where I write daily, even if it is one line. The best writing advice that I have received is short – just write!
Poetry writing works best when I am inspired. It is usually driven by emotion – empathy, love, anger, feeling vulnerable, or experiencing great joy. Because of the unpredictability of the process, I usually keep pen and paper by my bed so that I can write a thought that comes at 1am or a recorder in my car for when a great idea comes when I am driving. That is how a poem starts; crafting it to perfection requires carving out time at my desk, in a bookstore, in the corner of my favorite restaurant or on the beach to just focus on writing.
One more question: How do you stay connected to the poetry community?
This is a wonderful time to be a poet. Poetry books are on the bestseller lists again and the audience has seen exponential growth with the ability to post poetry on social media, in particular Instagram. Being able to follow and support other poets and have poetry lovers communicate their thoughts and share their stories has created a vibrant poetry community that I am proud to be a part of. I am alway happy to chat with readers @JAutherine, as well as share advice and collaborate with fellow poets. I am fortunate that Wild Heart, Peaceful Soul is reaching a wide audience and is resonating with readers.
Thank you so much for having this interview with me! It’s been a pleasure. 🙂