Alumni Dispatch: Shauna Potocky | How Heroes Influence Our Voice

Having heroes,
including writing heroes, is incredibly empowering. Coming to appreciate the
guidance of people who inspire you to show up in the world and on the page, particularly
in ways that do not come naturally to you, can help crystalize your own voice
in new and refreshing ways. It is a powerful thing when someone places a new
lens in front your own eyes to reveal a novel perspective of how to see the
world while also giving you the tools to describe it.
I have several
heroes or “mentors”, if you prefer, in the writing world. Individuals who have
found their voice, developed their own style and process, and put their work out
there, fearlessly and with attention to craft. I can easily be lost for days while
reading their work and carefully studying their magic.
Recently, I
have become especially grateful for these voices as I reflect on what they have
offered to my own writing. They provide powerful modeling, each of them
offering up elements of style, a fresh way of seeing, a deeper way to connect
or the bravery to write poems that otherwise might have gone unwritten. Offered
here is a sampling of the voices that resonate for me and a glimpse into what I
have gained from reading their work.   
Gary Geddes: Gary
is a remarkable literary figure in Canada; I have learned from Gary to be
brave, fearless even. To not let the truth escape the limelight, to not let it
be lost in the drowning sleep society heaps upon us so we forget to question,
so we forget to see. Perhaps even more importantly, to face our own
vulnerability—when your pen falters, when your gut twists, when your lips are
pursed and silent, that is exactly
what you need to be writing about.
Emilie Zoey Baker takes her readers on a bold
and blindfolded adventure during a recent reading.

Emilie Zoey
Baker: Frankly, Emilie is an Australian poet-goddess and I once shared with her
that I wished I could see through her eyes for one day. She is a master of
revealing the world, its parallel universes, its time-lapse stories in fresh,
vibrant, and peeled down wisdom. She shares unseen worlds with us. From her, I
have learned to look deeper, then deeper still; look at it from every angle,
upside down, inside out, and then taste it, feel it, get it into all of my
senses and all the senses I wish I had—then
describe it.

Joseph Keller
McNeilly: You have probably never heard of him, yet he has a powerful voice.
Joseph’s writing clearly demonstrates how powerful imagery and emotion, when
linked to a clear universal concept can deliver a striking message. Over ten years
have gone by since I was introduced to some of his poetry and today I can
recall with remarkable clarity the images and emotional turns in some of his
best work. His descriptions are vivid,
if not haunting.
Terry Tempest
Williams: Terry has roots and embodies reverence for the Earth; her words in
many ways are a worship of soil, ecosystems, elements and animals that make up
her home. Through these things and from their essence a spirituality rises and
spreads. Her worship and care of place makes others care. In the best
circumstances, she inspires others to become deeply rooted in their own homeland.
Terry models reverence for the landscape and connection of spirit to place,
while demonstrating what it is to be the voice and protector of seemingly
voiceless lands.  

Today, I invite
you to look at the voices that resonate for you—who do you admire? What lessons
can they teach? How does their work influence style and craft within your own? Through
the inspiration and modeling of your own writing heroes, how might you be
empowered to expand your own voice?

Shauna Potocky is a writer, poet, and lover of wilderness. Her daily work is focused on the protection and management of public lands and she currently splits her time between living and working in Yosemite National Park, California and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Shauna attended the 49 Writers Tutka Bay Writers Retreat in 2015. 

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