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Interview with Patty - Real Life

(Only nicknames or middle names will be used in my interviews, to help protect each person’s privacy.)


Patty, you are definitely a performance poet. You put all you’ve got into the reading of any poem. It delights the audience, it delights me.

Yes, I use body, facial, and audio improvisation as I read poems aloud.


That’s how we met, right? You were living in Cherokee Village in Arkansas, and you found our poetry group in Mountain Home. We met at a poetry meeting.

That’s right.

I remember, a few years ago, that I was scheduled to read my poetry at the library in Mountain Home, Arkansas, but I’d lost my voice two days earlier. Rather than cancel, I asked you to read my poetry to Friends of the Reynolds Library. I was there, but you were the reader. It was a cold read for you—you’d not seen the poems before. You did an outstanding job! How did you get started?

Thank you. My mother told me that I was an excellent storyteller. Then I was chosen by my first grade teacher to recite a few short lines in the class Christmas play. Somehow I knew whether or not the audience was following my energy. When Mom made me stand at the top of the stairs to “practice my part,” she had no idea she was setting me on a path of singing, acting, educating, and entertaining.


You certainly can think on your feet. It’s fun to watch you perform. I read your book of poetry Whys and Other Whys: Wise and Otherwise. Great poetry. Patty, I noticed many poems in the middle of the book show challenging situations.

I share in the book my reactions to 23 years of volunteer work where volunteers collaborated with incarcerated parents. We served parent-caretakers and marginalized citizens inside the walls and in the “real” world. Also, I’ve had my own challenges in the real world.


You created some kind of literature program in the Arkansas State Prisons, didn’t you?

That’s right. A friend, his wife, and I established The Storybook Project in one prison in 1997. Eight times a year, volunteers serve approved prisons that have requested and welcomed this literature program. Our volunteers help inmates choose books to record as they read to their children. A package with the recorded story on a CD inside each new book is mailed to each child at their caretaker’s address. The project continues to expand. It is alive and well and as strong as ever.


So, you and your husband were teachers? 

In the early years, we and our oldest daughter were caught up in my husband’s being a pitcher for the Pioneer League out in Billings, Montana. It was a minor league baseball team. For a few seasons, that team and the Civil Rights events emerged side-by-side and crossed paths across our country.

However, this baseball dream of my husband’s was not to be fulfilled. Reality hit. Our family increased with two more girls and a boy. We pivoted to teaching on different educational levels. I taught elementary music, and he, high school history. Northampton School District sport teams in Pennsylvania, known as the “Konkrete Kids,” now had six lifelong fans.


I hear you. We all have to find ways to help the family survive. Did you have surprises or struggles along your path?

The biggest surprise and most difficult struggle, for me, was being married 47 years, then divorced at 68 years old.


Good gracious! Patty, that would rattle anyone.

I’ll speak straight forward. I rode a roller coaster of emotions off and on for four years while initiating a different “Me.” A younger feeling, healthier “Me” exited those after-school aerobic classes three times a week. Being a determined woman, I even explored hair colors and hairstyles. After school, a calmer “Me” dug into a zip lock bag of celery sticks and hurried home to finish supper for my two “blooming” adults who were living with me. It was hard.


Of course that had to be challenging.

And now, decades later, my adult children have had to rush me to a hospital—heart issue. Surprise! Cardiologist says, “Slow down, but don’t stop, Patty,” as he scribbles down a prescription for Physical Therapy.

So, when someone remarks that I sound confident, I have to confess it is not me who is confident. It is the God I follow in hope of gaining patience. What helps me is reading scripture and meditating in each morning’s early silence.


And you can carry those coping skills wherever you go. How does the meditation work for you?

It works. When I meditate, it frees my mind—helps me understand and observe what’s around me. These days, I am an independent resident in a Senior Living Facility which includes a professional staff and assisted residents. Relatives and friends come as visitors, of course. I have many people and opportunities to observe life as it moves along.


That’s your alert mind and curious side. Your humanness is not only in your poetry. It’s right in front of you, every day.

I’ve been a curious person all of my life, always asking and wondering why.


Now I’m the curious one. What is your process of writing poetry? When did you begin writing poetry?

I began writing poetry in ninth grade with pencil and paper. Poetry is, for me, a mind-body relationship. My goal is to share the humanness that’s in my mind with the reader of my poem. I must select words carefully.


You have lost two daughters in the last three years. I cannot imagine how hard that is. It’s not a loss most of us contemplate. And you’ve had health issues, too.

Sometimes I sit and gaze at a certain new house plant. I think that maybe I do this to distract from my parents’ recent birthdays, from a stressor, or from my four short hospital stays during the last year—due to my congestive heart failure. No. That’s not it at all. I sit and stare at the plant because I want to be distracted. Truth be told, I miss Carol Jane and Sandra Jan. This crispy fern reminds me how much I love and miss them.


You are grieving, Patty. These are huge losses. You are 87 years old and a resourceful woman. How do you comfort yourself?

By habit, I listen to classical music daily, vocal, or instrumental. Or, I might turn on a current two-minute video of my daughter Nancy, elbow-deep in Slovak cookie batter. I have it on my cell phone. It makes me smile. Nancy brings traditional foods from the old country into our presence. They remind the entire family of 18-year-old Maria Hudak. She was my Baba Wanisko (Maria Hudak) who spoke no English. Yet she climbed into the steerage deck of a ship bound for Castle Island in America a few years before Ellis Island opened.


Oh my goodness. What a legacy, Patty. A brave young woman, making such a long voyage. Along with her carpetbag, Maria Hudak packed her recipes, her sense of humor, her trust in God, and her beautiful singing voice.


Sounds like you, Patty. When life is difficult, you have the teachings and encouragement of your mother and grandmother to fall back on.

Yes, I came from some wonderful people.


Patty, do you have any advice for young women today?

Slow down. Be patient. Read poetry. If you can travel, I recommend it. And sing! Singing is fun and keeps you in a positive mood.


Thank you all for taking the time to read my new interview series focusing on some remarkable women. Please share! Anyone can subscribe to my blog by scrolling to the bottom of any page on my website and filling out the form. This will ensure that each time I release a new blog post, you'll get an email reminder and link!

My best and God bless,


Pat Durmon

P.S. You will find links to my published books after the beautiful drawing of this week's interviewee, "Patty," done by Mary Chambers of Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Drawing of "Patty" by Mary Chambers, Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Poetry Books by Pat Durmon

Prose by Pat Durmon

The story of Lee R. Farrier from Norfork, Arkansas, is Pat's first book of prose and a tribute to Lee, the town of Norfork, and its people. All profits from sales go toward a scholarship at Norfork High School.

1 Comment

Alathea Daniels
Alathea Daniels
Feb 18

I have met "Patty," and she is indeed an inspiration!

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