Bending the rules with poetry

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By Kirsten Laskey

Michelle Holland became a poet in high school. She liked to write but staying in the rules and guidelines of writing just wasn’t her thing.

“I wasn’t a very good prose writer in high school,” she said, “(but) I wanted to write. I liked to keep a journal but I wasn’t good at putting together sentences and paragraphs.”

Poetry offered a way out of all the rules. She wrote the way she thought poetry should be written.

Looking back, it was a little naïve. Holland explained she did not have any literary mentors or role models to guide her work. Now, she is helping others mold their literary skills as an English teacher at Los Alamos High School.

Additionally, Holland will share her recent work during the Authors Speak series, which will continue at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Public Library.

Holland said she will read from her new collection of poetry, “Chaos Theory,” as well as explain how the work came together.

This is Holland’s second published collection. Three years ago, her work, “The Sound a Raven Makes,” was published. It earned the 2007 New Mexico Book Award.

“That was kind of cool,” Holland said.

In addition to her published collections, Holland’s work has appeared in several anthologies including the “Harwood Anthology” and “Practice of Peace.”

Holland has shared her poems with audiences throughout New Mexico, but Thursday will be first time she has presented her work to Los Alamos.

“It’s a new audience for me,” she said. “I’m from Chimayo and I’ve done readings in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Española … but I’ve never read in Los Alamos before.”

 However, Holland participated in the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos’ poetry symposium.

She said she is looking forward to seeing a few faces from the symposium Thursday.

Although Holland’s work has evolved since she was in high school, high school still has an effect on her.

She said her students remind her of what it means to be emotional.

Holland added her own attitude toward literature in high school encouraged her to become a teacher. She explained she wants to generate the idea that literature is alive and breathing.

Holland lives in Chimayo with her husband, daughter and menagerie of pets.

She joked that the poem, “Chaos Theory,” is about her daughter’s room because it is always a mess.

Besides writing and teaching, Holland is part of the program, Poets-in-the-Schools, which is sponsored by New Mexico CultureNet.

She also coaches Post-It-Note-Poets, a youth slam team and includes Los Alamos High School, Española Valley High School, The Tutorial School in Santa Fe, McCurdy School and Northern New Mexico College.