GREENE COUNTY — She calls her book And Yet.
But the title of Greene County resident Rita Coleman’s new poetry book could just as well be the mantra for her whole life.
“People say, ‘What does that mean?’” said Coleman, during an interview in her kitchen.
“Well, to me it’s just like there’s always something that’s going to come up … And yet, like, what’s next?”
Coleman seemed to ask that question in between one life transition — to the next — and the next.
As a wife, then a single mother — a newspaper reporter, then an English student — a teacher, a photographer and a poet – Coleman found that there was always something more.
More to do, more to read, and more to write.
Today, she reads cover to cover, from one book to the next, just like she did when she was a child. She also writes pages and pages — of text on a computer screen or scribbles in a journal — just like she did from elementary school to high school.
“I wrote my first piece of short fiction and it was published in the high school newspaper,” she said. “And then I knew that I wanted to write.”
After reporting for the Journal-Herald, the Dayton Daily News and Car Scope, earning her bachelor’s and master’s in English Literature, teaching writing at Wright State University and the University of Dayton, and publishing her first book, Mystic Connections, in 2009, her writing career continues today.
Her newest creation, And Yet, a softcover chapbook of poems, is scheduled for a late summer release by Finishing Line Press.
Coleman says her work, old and new, mirrors real life.
“It’s always about relationships. Relationships with nature, relationships with people,” she said.
Much of her nature-oriented writing stems from her love for the outdoors, and her love for her home in rural Greene County.
“Being out here — there’s just so much of everything to write about, to be inspired by,” she continued.
She describes her poetry as “accessible.”
“You’re not going to read it and go, ‘What does that mean?’ That’s important to me.”
Coleman finds that that is a challenge within her world of writing — people automatically labeling poetry as an esoteric, dense form of art.
“I really do think that people have been put off by poetry,” she said. “I think this town can be more poetry-receptive if people know that there’s poetry out there that they’ll understand.”
The way Coleman describes her writing could have something to do with her writing process as a whole.
Her work is not just about her daily life; it’s a part of her daily life.
Mornings at her house start with a cup of tea. They continue with meditation, short passages, prayer, and a little writing.
“I like to feel fresh and connected,” she said, adding that she’s upheld that routine for nearly 30 years.
She also journals “anywhere, anytime,” having never cut that habit, either.
“I started journaling in 1976 and I’m still journaling,” she said.
Coleman writes more formally when she can, usually three days a week at her desk in a back study room overlooking the yard.
“The way it works for me is I usually hear it in my mind. Usually a first line, or a few words, and that can happen anywhere. Then it’s just a matter of sitting down and going with it,” she explained.
But there’s more to the poet than just her words on paper. She’s also a wife and a mother, and takes care of her two grandchildren twice a week.
One of her poems, “In Praise of Children Who Don’t Listen,” depicts filling waffle holes with syrup and watching a swirling bathtub drain.
While her grandchildren inspire her, her husband urges her forward.
“He’s a good cheerleader for me; he’s also a good critic. He’s in my writing group, too, he just doesn’t know it!” she laughed.
Coleman also mentors friends, gardens in her yard and practices yoga.
“Move a muscle, change your thought,” she dictated, as though speaking only to herself.
Teaching and learning continues for the poet, as she offers poetry workshops at schools and libraries, exhibits her photographs in local galleries, and continues taking writing classes with her instructor and mentor, Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel.
“Everything I’ve ever done has always been about supporting my writing,” she volunteered, in an effort to tie her stories together.
When asked how she did it all, and continues to do more, she responded, “Sheer perseverance.”
“I would say to anybody – just don’t give up.”
And Yet can be ordered online at www.finishinglinepress.com.