Sherwood High School alumna Gina Williams publishes poetry book
A Sherwood High School alumna is showing off a new collection of poetry.
"An Unwavering Horizon" by Gina Williams is a full-length poetry collection that explores perspectives and understandings often missed in the hustle and crush of everyday life. Williams created the collection from 10 years of previously published poems.
"It feels good to have it come together finally in a book," said Williams, who graduated from Sherwood High School in 1986. "This is actually my first collection."
After graduating high school, Williams went on to earn journalism degrees from the University of Oregon in 1992 and 2011.
But she credits her time in the Sherwood School District for sparking her interest in writing. Williams remembers participating in writing contests in grade school and working for the school newspaper.
"The winners (of the writing contests) got to have lunch with an author, which was always very exciting as a kid," Williams said. "Then I just kind of developed writing poetry later."
After college, Williams got more serious about her poetry, until she attended a difficult workshop that made her give up the craft altogether.
"The instructor was harsh, (and) I went through a period of heavy self-doubt thinking, 'I need to stick with journalism and creative non-fiction, because I'll never be a poet,'" she said with a chuckle.
Williams did get the last laugh.
With a helpful support system, she worked to submit her poetry to various publications and journals. Williams' collection was then accepted by one publisher out of the 10 she submitted her collection to.
"I was jumping up and down, screaming like a little girl," recalled Williams of the moment she heard the news. "I was super-excited, because it's hard — poetry is not easy — especially putting the collection together, and you have to deal with rejection a lot."
The collection includes poems about hard realities of the human condition, from family crisis to war. The poems are a way to tackle big issues through small personal experiences, she said.
"There's a poem in the book about a pen pal I had during middle school from Tehran, Iran," Williams said. At the time, Iran and Iraq were at war. "In the last letter that I received, the bombs were falling in Tehran, and she said that I may not ever hear from her again."
That was the last letter Williams received from her pen pal.
Another poem — not included in the collection — also highlights a big issue today: immigration. Williams recently finished a poem about a young boy incarcerated at the border who died of the flu.
"I researched this story and found out details about his life, so I could put a name and a face in context to his story through a poem," Williams said.
When asked how she deals with writing about heavy subjects, Williams said, "I couldn't sleep thinking about that one. (I) got up at five in the morning on Sunday and finally got it out of my head onto the page. It is hard."
Along with poets like William Stafford and Alice Walker, her great-grandmother was also an inspiration to Williams at a young age. She said her great-grandmother went back to college in her late 70s and later got a job as a columnist with the Seattle Times at age 80.
Williams hopes her poetry can one day inspire others as well.
"There are little details that make up lives, and I hope that people can take something that's meaningful to them through the details that I've collected in these poems," said Williams.
She added, "I take everyday situations or objects and try to craft them into something that has universal meaning."
People can pre-order "An Unwavering Horizon" through March 6 at finishinglinepress.com. Books will ship May 1.
For more information about the author, visit ginamariewilliams.com.
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