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Words to lead you home: New SLO County poet laureate to make debut at poetry festival 

An offer of toast. Heated words on a supposed-to-be-romantic trip to Paris.  A rejected tarot card reading. Just snippets of life, but dissected, they make up the words of Jeanie Greensfelder’s poetry.

click to enlarge LANGUAGE OF THE SOUL:  SLO County’s new poet laureate, Jeanie Greensfelder, takes inspiration from observing the world around her. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JEANIE GREENSFELDER
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF JEANIE GREENSFELDER
  • LANGUAGE OF THE SOUL: SLO County’s new poet laureate, Jeanie Greensfelder, takes inspiration from observing the world around her.

“I’m a narrative poet, I like to tell stories,” she said.

The bard’s love for the written word deepened after retiring to San Luis Obispo County about 20 years ago with her husband, after a long career as a psychologist in St. Louis. Greensfelder was recently selected as the new poet laureate for SLO County. Her term officially starts in January, but one of her first acts will be reading her work at the 33rd Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival, which runs from Nov. 5 through 20, and features poetry readings, workshops, films, and book signings at locations across the county.

Greensfelder was one of four poets considered for the job by Arts Obispo. Her first response was “no” when folks in the local poetry scene asked if she’d like to be nominated for the post, but she gradually warmed to the idea.

click to enlarge MOMENTS IN TIME:  'Biting the Apple' is a book of poems by SLO County poet laureate Jeanie Greensfelder on her childhood and young adulthood. - IMAGE COURTESY OF JEANIE GREENSFELDER
  • IMAGE COURTESY OF JEANIE GREENSFELDER
  • MOMENTS IN TIME: 'Biting the Apple' is a book of poems by SLO County poet laureate Jeanie Greensfelder on her childhood and young adulthood.

“It was making that decision about how you want to spend your time,” Greensfelder said. “I’d like to do a coming home to poetry program, inviting neighbors to get together and bring their favorite poems and get to know each other at a deeper level.”

Her two published books of poems Biting the Apple and Marriage and other Leaps of Faith span from Greensfelder’s early childhood to her young adulthood and the joys and struggles of carving out a life with another human.

Greensfelder’s conversational, narrative prose beckons the reader to step into the author’s life. Her husband’s exasperation when his wife can’t decide if she wanted toast turned into a poem of its own: He returns and says I’m sorry, I forget how your brain works. I ask a question and you answer: Well… It’s March, but it’s Friday. Is it raining? Let me think…/ I look up and say, Yes, I’d love a piece of toast.

click to enlarge A LIFE SHARED:  In 'Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith,' Jeanie Greensfelder’s poems tackle everything about joining your life with someone else from the warm and fuzzy moments to the times when cruel words are flung like daggers. - IMAGE COURTESY OF JEANIE GREENSFELDER
  • IMAGE COURTESY OF JEANIE GREENSFELDER
  • A LIFE SHARED: In 'Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith,' Jeanie Greensfelder’s poems tackle everything about joining your life with someone else from the warm and fuzzy moments to the times when cruel words are flung like daggers.

“I like poetry because it’s like a short story, quick,” Greensfelder said. “It wakes me up and makes me present to what I see. It keeps me noticing things. Noticing inspires me. It’s so easy not to see the flowers that are blooming behind us. As soon as you start noticing, there are things to write about.”

While Greensfelder writes frequently, there is no rhyme or reason to how or when inspiration will strike.

“I take a walk every morning and look for inspiration and sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t,” she said. “I like to walk out at Sweet Springs and look at the egrets there. People will often create a poem for you if you’re just watching. I think the main thing is to start writing.”

Greensfelder is currently working on her third book of poetry. She’ll read poems from the yet-to-be published collection on Nov. 6 (starting at 3 p.m.) at the Steynberg Galley in SLO as part of the poetry festival. Greensfelder hopes to get locals interested in poetry during her term as poet laureate over the next two years.

RHYMES AND GOOD TIMES :  The 33rd annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival runs Nov. 5 through 20, and includes poetry readings, workshops, films, and book signings across the county. For more information, visit languageofthesoul.org. 'Biting the Apple' and 'Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith' by SLO County Poet Laureate Jeanie Greensfelder are available on Amazon.
  • RHYMES AND GOOD TIMES : The 33rd annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival runs Nov. 5 through 20, and includes poetry readings, workshops, films, and book signings across the county. For more information, visit languageofthesoul.org. 'Biting the Apple' and 'Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith' by SLO County Poet Laureate Jeanie Greensfelder are available on Amazon.

“Poetry can bring you home to yourself,” Greensfelder said. “It’s kind of like opening up your mind and letting something fresh in. It can feed your spirit to listen to poetry. We all need that. A poem can just bring you to that meditative, quiet place.” 

Ryah Cooley is a word nerd at rcooley@newtimesslo.com

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