Chatting with Andrea Potos about Her Joy Becomes

“The hurt you embrace becomes joy.” ~ Rumi

I’m happy to welcome Wisconsin poet Andrea Potos back today to answer a few questions about her latest book, Her Joy Becomes (Fernwood Press, 2022).

Just as Keats once wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” Andrea writes, “nothing of beauty is ever wasted.” 

Embracing beauty and choosing joy, even in the face of loss and despair, are prevailing themes. Safe to say, each fully realized lyrical gem in this collection is a thing of beauty. Andrea’s prologue:


As you begin, look just slant,
the same way one should not look directly
into the sun's gaze.
Graze with your consciousness,
keeping your hands nimble, your reach a fluency
of light as words begin to sift
and fall and settle where they
know they belong.

A thread of female kinship and connection is woven throughout the book, whether familial (grandmother, mother, daughter), or literary (Dickinson, Alcott, Brontës, Dorothy Wordsworth). Loved ones deeply missed as well as writers who came before inhabit introspective “rooms of thought,” informing Andrea’s poetic sensibility, igniting her imagination. 

As a sentient witness of life’s ordinary miracles, she finds magic in an iridescent soap bubble and revels in freshly washed laundry flapping on the line (“releasing their music of fabric to the air”). She experiences unexpected epiphanies as peonies bloom and a lone cardinal sings of her late mother’s loving divinity.

Intimate and accessible, these poems quietly resonate. Are you turning into your mother? Remember the thrill of new patent leather Mary Janes or the heyday of Laura Ashley dresses? Like prayer, attentiveness, and humility, taking joy is a practice worth cultivating. Moreover, poetry heals, gently guiding us on the path towards wholeness.

Here’s the lovely opening poem:

Andrea’s daughter Lexi

Another early morning
in front of the bathroom mirror --
my daughter making faces
at herself while I pull
back her long brown hair,
gathering the breadth and shine
in my hands, brushing
and smoothing before weaving
the braid she will wear
to school for the day.
Afterward, stray strands
nestle in the brush, and because
nothing of beauty is ever wasted,
I pull them out,
stand on the porch and let them fly.


photo of Andrea by Katrin Talbot

What is giving you joy today?  

Today what gives me joy is drafting another new poem about my dearest friend Rosemary Zurlo-Cuva, who passed away three weeks ago today. She was a constant in my poetry life, and a treasured friend and ally. I feel she must be helping me with all these new poems that have been arriving. . . 

What was it like working with Fernwood Press for the first time? Was your manuscript published pretty much as you had submitted it?

Fernwood Press is absolutely marvelous:  enthusiastic, supportive and so willing and wise about getting the book out into the world! I changed a couple poems after the manuscript was accepted, but nothing drastically was altered. I am always on to new poems. . . 

I love that the book begins and ends with poems referencing your daughter – braiding her hair and hearing her play “Ode to Joy” on the piano. Could you tell us about writing “At the Marigold Kitchen Cafe,” which is dedicated to your daughter Lexi?

The Marigold Cafe poem came swiftly, as I recall, because Lexi and I had made such a ritual of going there together through the years. Marvelous and cozy mother/daughter time! She lives in California now, but when she returns for visits, we still go. . . . with our books and notebooks. Gold and marigold and ochre are such warm, embracing and nourishing colors–perhaps that is another reason why the poem came so easily. 

Lexi at the Marigold Kitchen Cafe

            for Lexi

Its name made good on the promise
of brightness and gold, its burnt orange
and deep ochre walls. We'd find the spot
under the slanted ceiling -- our corner
of cushions and embroidered pillows -- she
with her sketchbook and magic markers,
her hot cocoa and whipped cream, me
with my wide-ruled notebook and cappuccino; she
drawing stories with her pictures, me learning
by watching how to make pictures with words.


I was happy to see several poems about the Brontës in the book. In “Before Beginning to Write, I Call Out,” you refer to them as your “old sisters.” What fascinates you most about them? How have they inspired your writing?

I was a little hesitant to call them “sisters” as I didn’t want it to seem I was equating their genius with my own abilities. . . I certainly don’t intend that. Yet, they feel so close to me, and it may be because Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights featured very strongly in my girlhood, and they kindled my imagination. 

Andrea in the Brontë Parsonage dining room, where the sisters wrote their novels.

Charlotte, Emily, Anne
incanting their names to the air,

my old sisters, I like to pretend,
considering myself the youngest one

left behind in another century with
fathoms left to learn, my stockinged feet

propped on the fireplace fender as theirs
always were. While they go about their lives now

worlds and worlds ahead of me,
I close my eyes as if

I might inhale even one
waylaid atom of their breath.


I love the bravery in their stories, and the absolute brilliance of their craft. The wild and wuthering setting of their Yorkshire home just sets me to dreaming and a state of awe! I also loved that the then-Poet Laureate Robert Southey told Charlotte that literature “ought not to be the business of a woman’s life” and she promptly ignored him, thank goodness. There is a poem about this in my 2012 collection We Lit the Lamps Ourselves, where they are featured strongly. 

Andrea on the way to Haworth Moors, West Yorkshire

The loudest crows
cawing over the tops of the oaks
call me to autumn already,
and though my back is to the window,

I know the sky must be a gray wuthering,
and the curlews are crying. The wind
must be moaning as it goes sweeping
across heath and moors and the spikes
of purple heather thousands of miles away
from where my body sits; yet

I feel the gorse
grazing my ankles as I go.


What stands out most about the last time you visited the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth? 

That I still felt the same old awe, even after more than twenty years. That I still felt so grateful and amazed to be standing in that front hallway, dreaming and gazing at the stone steps, worn from their own passage. . . . 

Brontë Parsonage, Haworth

I love the tender wisdom in the poems about your mother, how you’ve processed your grief by internalizing her essence with a sense of open hearted gratitude. What was your mother’s favorite poem – either written by you or someone else? 

Well my darling mother loved all my poems of course (hahah) but I do know her favorite poem of her whole life was William Wordworth’s “Ode to Immortality,” particularly the “splendor in the grass” section. It is about loving and grieving and finding strength in all that remains. She has helped me so much in this. 

Andrea with her mom Penny

Talk about why you like writing in cafes. Is it most conducive to idea gathering, drafting, or revising poems?

I don’t write in cafes as much as I used to, since the pandemic happened and forced me to create my own writing space at home, which has proved to be quite wonderful. But I do still love the occasional cafe visit, the soft background noise of dishes clattering, the scent of coffee brewing and bread toasting. . .   And the perfect (extra hot) latte is always welcome. I also relish outdoor writing, on the gorgeous Memorial Union Terrace here in Madison. 

Memorial Union Terrace

Using any poem from the book as an example, describe your typical writing process. 

Oh it is hard for me to describe a process like this really. But, say in the case of the acorns I garnered from Emily Dickinson’s yard, I do recall the three acorns were there sitting on my writing desk. And then I connected to her renown poem about Possibility, and of course that is what acorns are all about really–a possible future great oak tree.  The poem came alive quickly then.  


I pocketed them that day
the tour guide was not looking.

I nodded to myself that she
would not mind for me to hold

in my palm and carry home
such Possibility.


What contemporary poets have you found especially inspiring recently? Any book recommendations?

I LOVE the poet Joseph Stroud; I return to his books often. Yet I love so many poets, that I hesitate to make one stand out more than the other. . . But I do ADORE the anthologies from the “Emergency Poet” Deborah Alma in the U.K.  The Emergency Poet: An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology and The Everyday Poet: Poems to Live By are treasures! I first found them in the gift shop of the British Museum. But I think they are findable online. 

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Her Joy Becomes?

The cover reflects me for that sense of flowing joy I seek and also how much I love wearing long-flowy dresses. . . 🙂  Also, the book’s epigraph from C.S. Lewis is something I am more and more convinced of all the time:  “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

Thanks so much, Andrea!


♥︎ One final beauty:

Brontë writing box

            with thanks to Richard Jones

A writer I admire mentioned there being
a desk in a corner of eternity,
and I thought, yes, that's what
I want: it doesn't even have to be a traditional
desk with drawers and knobs and things; any
rickety, unvarnished table would do,
even a lap desk, the kind with the cushiony
underside, though I'm pretty sure my sheer
astral form will not need the softness,
only a guarantee that all
that I love to do and praise
will still be mine.


written by Andrea Potos
published by Fernwood Press, October 2022
Poetry Collection, 142 pp.



We are pleased to announce that the winner of Tomorrow is New Year’s Day: Seollal: A Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year by Aram Kim is Susan Horsey!! Congratulations, Susan, and thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.


Lovely and talented Laura Shovan is hosting the roundup at her blog this week. Mosey on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere. Happy February!

“Her joy becomes my joy.” ~ Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

*Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

34 thoughts on “Chatting with Andrea Potos about Her Joy Becomes

  1. I love this blog post, Jama! As I sit here at 6:30 am with my first cup of coffee, I feel like I am in the company of kindred spirits! I am going to check out Andrea’s book. Enjoy your weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hooray for flowy dresses (I need to get one)! I’m a big Bronte fan, so was happy to share those poems. As she mentioned, We Lit the Lamps Ourselves has more Bronte poems.


  2. Thank you for introducing and letting us visit Andrea, Jama. Every bit starts a wonderful day for me. I love the visits all over the world, the title “Brontean Morning”, the pictures of Andrea, her daughter, Lexi, British visits, and that thought of “left behind in another century”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jama, thank you for sharing Andrea’s new book and her joyful poems. They are a treasure-a wonderful set of poetic goodness to enjoy with a cup of tea on a cold day. I’m off to check out Andrea’s social media.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A really nice, comfy interview with a poet new to me. Thank you for introducing me to this book of poetry. I love her recs for more poems too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such beautiful poems! *happy sigh* I am delighted to listen in while you and Andrea are chatting. I’m sorry, though, to learn of Andrea’s friend Rosemary’s passing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think it must be taken, that often there must be a conscious effort to look for the positive. Esp. now with things so tough all around. It’s a more challenging practice, but well worth the rewards.


  6. Thank you for the introduction to Andrea and her work – “flowing joy” indeed. Beautiful words all around. And fun that she lives in Madison! We lived there for about 10 years – my youngest was born there. Great town with many great poets and writers, like Andrea! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So much to love about this post. I’ve written down “a fluency of light” in my notes. And the beautiful lines:

    I close my eyes as if

    I might inhale even one
    waylaid atom of their breath.


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