The Sarasota poet's latest anthology, "Sonoma," features more of her "Memos to Marty" and new inspirations.
Lucia Blinn is a Sarasota resident — and a citizen of the world. Her poetry explores the human comedy on a global and personal scale. Sometimes, very personal.
“Sonoma,” the title poem of Blinn’s new anthology, speaks of a holiday visit to Sonoma Valley — the last trip she ever took with her husband, Marty Blinn. He was dying from pancreatic cancer; the beauty they experienced together became all the more precious.
The memory had dimmed until Blinn saw a wine crate in The Reserve’s wine-tasting room. Its beautiful illustration of a lush vineyard sparked a bittersweet recollection.
“It was like Proust’s madeleines,” Blinn says. “I looked up at the wine box and the memories came flooding back.”
Marty is frequently the poet’s muse. Blinn peppers her volumes with “Memos to Marty” — capsule reports on our mad, mad world addressed to her late husband, who died in 1993. It’s her way of keeping him up to date on the latest news, both personal and political.
“It’s a very handy structure to relate what’s going on in my world,” she says. “I fold in the most interesting bits and pieces of my life and pass it on to him. That could be a memory, a surreal news item, or a beautiful wine crate, like the one I saw in The Reserve.”
Blinn’s poetry draws on a well of deep emotion, but it’s never sentimental. Her words combine the insights of a sharp mind with the rhythms of natural speech.
“If my poem sounds like me, I’ve succeeded,” she says. “If it sounds artificial, you’ll never read it. I’ll throw it away, or keep reworking it until it comes to life.”
Working on a poem can also mean not working on it. Blinn learned this piece of advice from Ted Kooser, America’s 13th poet laureate. And took it to heart. “When I finish a poem, I’ll step away from it for as long as I can,” she says. “When I come back, I’ll see it with fresh eyes.”
As Blinn sees it, that’s not perfectionism. It’s part of a writer’s job description.
“‘A writer writes,’ as the old saying goes,” she says. “I think E.B. White improved on that. He said, ‘The best writing is rewriting.’ I’m a compulsive rewriter, so I suppose that makes me a writer.”
Where does she write?
Blinn’s home at the Sarasota Bay Club is where she relaxes, not where she creates.
“I can’t write at home,” she says. “I have a wonderful desk in an office overlooking the bay. It’s beautiful, but I’m too distracted. When I want to write, I’ll go to The Reserve or other nearby hangouts. After years of working in an office, I’ve been trained to write elsewhere.”
For more than 30 years, you could find Blinn’s office in some of America’s top advertising agencies in Chicago and New York City. She spent time in the trenches as a copywriter and creative director at Leo Burnett and DDB Worldwide.
“It was a crazy career,” she says. “The people were fun, the money was great, but I was working in a factory, and it could be brutal.”
She says Leo Burnett was a huge agency that sometimes had 12 people working on one assignment that may or may not work out. She has a long history of great campaigns that went nowhere.
Blinn walked out before she burned out. Thanks to a poetry-writing workshop, she made the leap from copywriting to poetry. “Passing for Normal,” her first anthology of poems, hit the stands in 2004. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.
“Poetry became the career after my career,” she says.
Now that she’s finished “Sonoma,” what’s next?
Starting on the next book, of course. And for Blinn, that leads to sharing her work with others.
“I love connecting with people,” she says. “What I do is more of a performance than a reading. I have a streak of the actor in me, and it gives me great joy.”
To order a copy of “Sonoma,” email [email protected].