Bitsy Sanders’ second grade teacher, Ms. Appler, formally identified her as a poet when Sanders’ poem about Halloween won a spot in the local paper. Now, as Hanover’s Poet Laureate, Sanders passionately promotes love for the written word in all forms, especially poetry.
Bitsy Sanders holds a BA in Professional Writing from York College of Pennsylvania. A graduate with honors, she pursued a career in the publishing field directly out of college. She joined Penguin Random House in Westminster, Maryland as a customer service representative. Since October 2013, she has worked as a credit correspondent.
How long have you been writing? What were some of your earliest writings like? This is going to sound crazy. I think I started writing before I even learned how to read. I discovered my mom’s old electric typewriter while I was closet-spelunking as a preschooler. It was this giant, blue machine that hummed so loudly whenever you’d plug it in. I was in love with it. As soon as she showed me how to insert paper, I started writing letters to my imaginary alien pen pal in a foreign galactic language that only she and I could understand. No idea… whatsoever… what I was typing. It probably looked like I sat on the keys or something, but I can remember being enamored by that typewriter for whole afternoons. Mom sold it at a yard sale years later. (Don’t tell her, but I’m still devastated.)
When did you realize you had talent? Ha! I still don’t think I’m wholly convinced that I do, but… I can definitely tell you the first time someone called me a “poet.” My second grade teacher, Mrs. Appler (can I give her a shout out?), urged the whole class to enter the Evening Sun’s Halloween poetry contest. I tossed the idea around in my head a bit. Truthfully, I waited until the night before the due date to actually sit down and work something out on paper. One morning, a couple of weeks later, I walked into the classroom to find a letter from the folks at the Evening Sun on my desk informing me that my poem was going to be printed. She announced to the class, “We have a poet among us this morning, boys and girls,” and winked at me. Aside from my mom, I think Mrs. Appler was the first teacher who recognized that I had a knack for stringing words together. I’d have to say it was her recognition that sparked my very own.
Does writing come easily for you, or is it something that takes work? Oh, listen, it has to be easy for me, or I just don’t do it. I won’t write unless it’s there – like itching under the surface, hissing like a bottle rocket and ready to come barreling out of me. Especially poetry. If you force a poem down and put it out there, everyone knows it (especially other poets). I immediately abandon ship if I get frustrated with a piece, but I never trash my starts. They’re just as important to the process as the finished product, I’d say.
Who or what inspires you to write? My inspiration runs the gamut. It could be something as tiny as how a child grasps a balloon or something as large as the Presidential election, you know? It’s whatever I notice and feel the need to describe. I never know what’s going to rock my boat, and sometimes it’s actually annoying that I feel so inspired that I have to get it down. I do find that my relationships affect my work often, regardless if they’re romantic. There are just some feelings that are too complicated to convey in conversation but are perfect as a creative piece.
Briefly describe your creative process. When I get an idea, I take it by the hand and fall down the rabbit hole with it. You know that sort of light hypnotism you go under when you’re driving? Like when you get from point A to point B but you can’t remember any part of your drive? That’s what it feels like when I’m in the thick of my creative process – I could be in the center of a high school marching band practice and it wouldn’t faze me. After it’s all down, sometimes I’ll workshop my pieces, but usually what you read is raw and uncut. I think poetry speaks the loudest when it’s left unedited.
Is poetry your favorite genre? If yes, why? If no, what is your favorite genre to write? This might shock you. I never ever wanted poetry to be my favorite, but there’s no use fighting the inevitable, right? It’s the most diverse of any genre, really. The beautiful thing about it is that you can’t possibly fit the idea of poetry into a mold. There are plenty of forms and rules that it can follow, but at the same time, you have the freedom to chuck those structures right out the window if you feel like it. To me, it’s the closest you can get to creating a painting with words. You visualize poetry – it’s experiential, and the best kind of poems are the ones that do the least telling. A poem that’s two lines can leave a more resounding message than a novel that’s 300 pages. It is the genre that refuses to settle down, and I respect that about it so much.
What are your main responsibilities as Hanover’s Poet Laureate? It’s different for every person who takes on the title, I think – but what remains the same for anyone who holds the position is that you’re essentially responsible for promoting the love of the written word within the Hanover community. I do have a laureate Facebook page where I post things regularly – promote local events, share snippets of poems, quotes, inspiring thoughts, photographs. I judge a lot of art, theatre, and writing contests for the local school districts. That aspect I especially love, because one of my goals while I hold this title is to promote poetry and creative writing among our local youth. I’ve been asked to do a lot of speaking to small groups and organizations, host workshops, etc. What’s neat about the position is that I can take it in whatever direction I’d like. Although after this Q & A, I’m thinking that I probably need to bring back that poetry contest in the local newspaper so kids have the chance to flex their skills and get inspired at a young age like I did…
What have you enjoyed the most about this honor? The possibilities that come with this position are, hands down, my favorite part. It’s exciting and ultimately overwhelming. When I think about when Dana Sauers, one of Hanover’s former Poet Laureates, came to speak to my high school English class over ten years ago, and how that inspired me, I just smile. I know that it’s my turn to do that now for every facet of this community. There’s just a sort of pride and contentment there that I get to carry with me.
Your favorite poet(s)? Shel Silverstein will always be my favorite poet of all time. I actually have an illustration from his book, Falling Up, tattooed above my ankle that my grandmas still don’t know about. I also have a big love for Rudy Francisco – check out “Love Poem Medley” if you ever get the chance.
Your favorite movie or work of art (right now)? Don’t laugh, but I loved Piper, that Pixar short that was shown before Finding Dory? The realistic animation that these studios can produce is absolutely breathtaking. And the story? Well, I can’t tell if I cried because it got me right in the feels or if it was because that baby sand piper was stinkin’ cute, but being that it was only six minutes long, I have to applaud their efforts for wrenching that much emotion out of me.
What advice would give someone who aspires to be a poet laureate? Let’s discuss it over coffee or a burrito, because you’re aspiring to be associated with some pretty amazing Hanoverian poets. Keep producing, keep building on your skill, keep putting yourself out there. Get involved in local readings, submit to reviews, lit mags, and enter contests. Explore everything the genre has to offer and experiment with your writing frequently. It’s my belief that before you preach it, you should have practiced every possible part of it.
Fool Me Thrice
We pull ourselves tight
like the skin of a drum head
so that when it hits us,
we do not break—
Briefly discuss the muse for the poem and some of the main messages/feelings you hope it conveys.
It’s no secret that we live in a world that’s ripe with tension and confusion. It has never been easier to offend someone, especially in the United States. Frustration is a funny muse, but one of my favorites that came through for this short piece. I wrote this poem as a reminder to myself that it’s possible to transcend all of the negativity that comes flying at me on a daily basis. If the human race, as a whole, can pull tight and exude strength, we can handle whatever it is that’s thrown at us and maybe… even come away dancing to our own beat.