A Glimpse Inside
by Judy Shepps Battle
muted by biography
distorted by decades
alive for nanoseconds
moments of magic
reveals pristine prison
Jacuzzi and bidet
length of stay
First published in Fourth & Sycamore 2018.
Judy Shepps Battle has been writing essays and poems long before retiring from being a psychotherapist and sociology professor. She is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She is also just one more human trudging the path of human incarnation; one who loves to write.
Judy says her style is “to meditate deeply and then allow my pen to act as a conduit for what my heart is feeling/saying.” She says, “I have never been a ‘technical’ poet and my biggest lesson I had to learn was to be willing edit. To be willing to remove my clutching of each written word as something I had to keep. There has been incredible freedom to release that faux ownership.”
Bekah and Judy were recently published together in Fourth & Sycamore—including the above poem—as well as The Ramingo’s Porch’s “Love, Spring & Revolution” issue and Free Lit Magazine’s “Bildungsroman” issue. We wanted to know more about Judy and her poetry, so here is our interview with her.
Q~Tell us about “A Glimpse inside.” How is it representative of your work?
A~It is part of the theme of active introspection that has infused all of my writing since age 10 (nearly 65 years ago). For more than a decade, I wrote poems with both my dominant and non-dominant hands. It was the voice of “Li’l Jude” (the youngest part of me that experienced early incest and other abuse) and “Teen Jude” (my inner rebel who was angry and scared but somehow had words to describe what she was feeling) that emerged from the non-dominant hand writing.
Q~Your background in psychotherapy seems to inform your writing. Can you tell us a little more about this?
A~My earliest childhood memories begin around age three and include incest, emotional abuse, and being the child of addicted/mentally ill parents. I studied psychoanalysis and became a therapist in an effort to understand these factors and their effect on me. In the process, I heard so many stories similar to mine from resilient adults who used their experiences in a positive way. And, from kids of all ages. My first poetry chapbook (currently looking for a publisher) is “Permission To Tell Secrets” and is entirely the “voice” of Li’l Jude. The second chapbook (also looking for a publisher) is “Telling Secrets Without Permission” and is the angry and wise voice of Teen Jude.
Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?
A~Just write and just submit. Value each rejection as evidence that you are true to your calling and sharing your being (whether met with rejection or not). For me, dealing with rejection was the hardest, especially when it was of material written with my non-dominant hand. The muse guiding Li’l Jude and Teen Jude is very fragile and needs support from my adult self and its awareness that there is no shame or injury received in getting a rejection from an editor.
Why not poetry? I also write articles on family dynamics and troubled teens and have written a short book (needing a publisher) on “Almost Forever: When Your Teen Wants to Die.” I write meditations which are really poetry in motion and had a newspaper column in the local paper for three years. It was called “Kids and Community” and published weekly with the goal of both increasing a sense of community and educating families about the world kids lived in, the stresses and the joys. In the process, I also did a lot of educating on the variety of drugs kids were exposed to and what is “normal” for teens (and not just oppositional). The column ran a couple of years and followed a similar column I wrote called “It Takes a Village” with the same theme.
Q~What is the poet’s role in society?
A~To keep alive the positive energy of communal connection that is so sorely threatened by politics, technology, and environment.
Q~You deferred publishing for many years to focus on career and family. What has it been like to be free to pursue your passion again in retirement?
A~Blissful. Organic wholeness has returned. I don’t multitask well, so to finally be able to focus on publishing the thousands of poems I have written as well as essays and a book is freedom incarnate. I never have not written. It is just part of me. Not to say that there haven’t been periods of me walking away from my muse to something more attractive, but these brief intervals usually dissolve naturally.
Q~What’s your writing process like?
A~Get up in the morning. Meditate. Write. Send out submissions. Then play with my one-year-old black labradoodle who has to patiently wait for this process to complete.
Q~Who was your poetry first love?
A~Paul Goodman. Paul was a model for growing up in the 60s. He was a radical, intellectual, adamant support of the New Left and an amazing guy. I met him when I was taken to a reading of one of his books (Growing Up Absurd) by one of my professors at State University of New York at Oyster Bay (now Stony Brook University). I’m told I just sat through his reading which was at his apartment in New York City with my jaw wide open. The room was filled with New York intellectuals, and I was a college junior. I was surprised that he wrote/published a lot of wonderful poetry and felt his energy was much like mine. We became friends, and he was a wonderful mentor.
Q~What are you reading now?
Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?
A~Just Google “Judy Shepps Battle” and tons of pages with my work will appear.