Press & Media: Torn Bits & Pieces

The following is a general "Question & Answer" session about Torn Bits & Pieces (book of poems) by Deborah O'Toole.


Is Torn Bits & Pieces a one-off, or do you write poetry on a regular basis?

I've never thought of myself as a poet. I'm a fiction writer, first and foremost. I'm not one to follow guidelines very well, so the particulars and accepted standards of poetry never appealed to me.


When did you write the poems included in Torn Bits & Pieces?

There was a period when I churned out quite a few poems. I shelved them for a number of years, being of the opinion that the collective verses were nothing more than the ramblings of an angst-ridden youth. My thoughts were very dark in those days.


You wrote most of the poems during your late teens and early twenties?

Yes, from the age of seventeen to twenty-one. The odd thing is, I have no idea why I began writing poems in the first place nor why the urge stopped. I've written the odd ditty here and there in ending a fiction novel, but nothing quite like I churned out as a teenager.


I think everyone's teenage years are difficult in terms of emotional turmoil and insecurity. We might have hard times as adults, but the ability to deal with situations and learning how to compartmentalize feelings is at its lowest ebb when we're teens.


What made you decide to re-assemble the poems and release them in the form of Torn Bits & Pieces?

I found the long-forgotten collection last year. All the poems were written in long-hand and located in an old dust-encrusted journal. I re-read a few of them and thought to myself: "Why not?" Why not set them out for the whole world to see?


I'm not ashamed of the work, but I certainly don't consider the poems to be polished or brilliant by any stretch of the imagination. They just happen to relate the inner turmoil I felt as a teenager. I guess writing poems was my way of dealing with typical growing pains.


One particular poem, called Sad Passing, talks about the death of John Lennon. When did you write it, and why?

I wrote it a few months after Lennon was killed in New York City. I always liked his music, much more so than any other solo endeavor undertaken by former members of the Beatles. His death was quite a shock to me at the time. I was too young to comprehend the initial Beatles explosion. I discovered their music nearly a decade after they disbanded, and John Lennon was my favorite from the start. He was an icon, a musical genius.


Sad Passing is basically very simple, but it expresses my feelings at the time.


What is Dark Blue Moon about?

I'm one of those people who likes windy, rainy and cold weather. I feel invigorated when storm clouds gather. I feel alive when the wind whips through my hair, and I feel tranquil when I hear rain hitting the roof. I've had those same feelings nearly my entire life. On the flip side, glaring sun, sandy beaches and heat sap my energy and take away my creative inspiration. In frank terms, sunny weather turns me into a morose, tetchy bitch.


Dark Blue Moon exemplifies those atypical feelings in a nutshell. I wrote the poem when I was seventeen, and nothing has changed. I still like cold, rainy weather.


What about Drama?

A few of my lifelong pet peeves include racial or religious bigotry, and cruelty to animals. Nothing will incense me faster than prejudice in general, or abuse of animals. I just can't tolerate either one.


Also on the top of my list is the inherent hypocrisy in certain people. You know, those who pretend to be something they're not. We all know someone like that. I used to have a friend who put herself in debt to lease a Mercedes-Benz just so people would think she was swimming in money. How ridiculous is that? We all have to bolster our sense of self on occasion, but there has to be a limit.


Drama is just an extension of my feelings in the matter.


Do you have any advice to offer aspiring poets?

I'm not qualified to offer advice on poetry-writing, frankly. My "poetry" does not follow the standards in assembly by any measure. I have not sought advice or censure from professional poets, nor have I tidied the language contained in Torn Bits & Pieces.


No, my work in Torn Bits & Pieces does not follow the well-known standards of prose. It's just what it is, without apology and without a false sense of ego or entitlement.

Q & A: Torn Bits & Pieces (PDF, 578 KB)


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