Local poet Susan Chamberlain doesn't write for fame or fortune.
In fact, even though she's been versifying since she was nine, her first book of poetry "Emergence Poems" was just published two months ago by Linear Arts.
"Poetry is my form of psychotherapy," Chamberlain said. "If I need to problem-solve or work out an issue within myself, I kind of brainstorm my feelings on paper."
The first step in writing a poem is the inspiration, and Chamberlain gets hers from several sources.
"Nature in general inspires me, but particularly water," she said. "I'm from Michigan and, of course, we have the Great Lakes. I used to love to walk the beach every day with the wind pummeling my face or sit and watch the waves come in."
Since Chamberlain and her husband Leon, also a poet, retired and moved to the Rim country, she's also developed an affinity for the pines. In fact, when the forest was closed because of the drought and fire danger, the Chamberlains turned to volunteering at the Rim Country Middle School evacuation center to pass the time.
Spirituality also has begun to play a bigger role in Chamberlain's poetry, a development that she believes is part of the natural progression of life. Her 35 years of poetry relate the cycles of a woman's life.
"I went through my teen years, an early marriage, the desire to have children, divorce all those cycles have been reported in my poetry," she said. "Now, especially in the last two years, I've moved into a more spiritual realm.
"I've been studying Buddhism and Christianity and other religions and I've tried to pull together what they have in common," she said. "I believe there is one universal God or higher power, and that the entire world is one human body. We're all connected on a spiritual level."
Chamberlain picked the following poem from her book as fairly representative of her work:
Like burning candles that flicker out
like smiles that come and go
Coaxing cares from those whose hearts have
Skipped a beat.
Time... rolling on with the waves...
takes us as far as we want to go.
Do not let your dreams drown,
though harsher hands than Hers may drag you down
You'll resurface... and float awhile...
and be carried to the shore if you cannot swim.
Either way, you'll know... the tender
Touch of survival. The touch that makes the
Heart beat faster,
We mount Her breakwater and
ride upon the Body of the Sea.
And at the water's edge, dismounting,
and walking through the sand, we turn, and
see Her graceful rise and fall.
Contentedly, she aged.
Like Emily Dickinson, one of her favorite poets, Chamberlain does not title her poems.
"I don't like titles," she said. "My poems are like thoughts, and if I do try to pull a title out, it doesn't have any meaning."
Chamberlain also likes the poetry of Erica Jong ("for her sense of humor and treatment of women's issues") and e.e. cummings.
Back in Michigan, she was a medical secretary at Detroit's famous Henry Ford Hospital. Leon was an auto worker.
"We came here from Michigan in October 2000," Chamberlain said. "We liked it so much we went back and sold our home and moved out here for good."
While she only spends about an hour a day actually writing poetry, Chamberlain finds time each day for journaling and walking in the woods.
"A lot of the ideas for my poems come from both of those places," she said. "Those are among my primary sources of inspiration."
The Chamberlains recently started a poetry club that meets the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Payson Public Library meeting room.
"You don't have to write poetry to come," she said. "You just have to like it."
Chamberlain, who writes poems longhand, says poetry not only remains quite popular, but is still meaningful in today's high-tech world.
"I have written eulogies when people die, for weddings, for births of babies, even for divorces," she said. "But poetry's greatest good, its greatest gift, is the power it has to heal."
Apparently a sizeable number of Rim country residents agree. More than 30 people attended the first meeting of the poetry club to read their own work, their personal favorites, or just to listen.
Chamberlain's book can be purchased at Timber Ridge Furnishings, 605 S. Beeline, or by calling Chamberlain at 468-1607.
Name: Susan Chamberlain
Occupation: Full-time poet
Birthplace: Motor City (Detroit)
Family: 2 sisters, 2 brothers, mother, husband
Personal motto: Carpe diem
Inspiration: Nature, spirituality
Greatest feat: Conquering fear
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Writing, reading
Three words that describe me best: Optimistic, patient, compassionate
The person in history I'd most like to meet: Jesus
Luxury defined: A hot bubble bath
Dream vacation spot: England
Why Payson: Pine trees remind me of home.