Words to lead you home: New SLO County poet laureate to make debut at poetry festival
BY RYAH COOLEY
An offer of toast. Heated words on a supposed-to-be-romantic trip to Paris. A rejected tarot card reading. Just snippets of life, but dissected, they make up the words of Jeanie Greensfelder’s poetry.
The bard’s love for the written word deepened after retiring to San Luis Obispo County about 20 years ago with her husband, after a long career as a psychologist in St. Louis. Greensfelder was recently selected as the new poet laureate for SLO County. Her term officially starts in January, but one of her first acts will be reading her work at the 33rd Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival, which runs from Nov. 5 through 20, and features poetry readings, workshops, films, and book signings at locations across the county.
Greensfelder was one of four poets considered for the job by Arts Obispo. Her first response was “no” when folks in the local poetry scene asked if she’d like to be nominated for the post, but she gradually warmed to the idea.
Her two published books of poems Biting the Apple and Marriage and other Leaps of Faith span from Greensfelder’s early childhood to her young adulthood and the joys and struggles of carving out a life with another human.
Greensfelder’s conversational, narrative prose beckons the reader to step into the author’s life. Her husband’s exasperation when his wife can’t decide if she wanted toast turned into a poem of its own: He returns and says I’m sorry, I forget how your brain works. I ask a question and you answer: Well… It’s March, but it’s Friday. Is it raining? Let me think…/ I look up and say, Yes, I’d love a piece of toast.
While Greensfelder writes frequently, there is no rhyme or reason to how or when inspiration will strike.
“I take a walk every morning and look for inspiration and sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t,” she said. “I like to walk out at Sweet Springs and look at the egrets there. People will often create a poem for you if you’re just watching. I think the main thing is to start writing.”
Greensfelder is currently working on her third book of poetry. She’ll read poems from the yet-to-be published collection on Nov. 6 (starting at 3 p.m.) at the Steynberg Galley in SLO as part of the poetry festival. Greensfelder hopes to get locals interested in poetry during her term as poet laureate over the next two years.
Ryah Cooley is a word nerd at firstname.lastname@example.org.