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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Ex-professor journeys from psychotherapist to published poet

    It’s amazing what happens when you have too much free time on your hands. For Ellen Sullins, it was rediscovering her poetic voice.

    “”Poetry started coming back from nowhere. Poems and lines would appear to me. I gradually started writing them down,”” said Sullins, who will read at Antigone Books tomorrow as part of the UA’s Other Voices Women’s Reading Series.

    Sullins, who said she first started writing a lot as a teenager, went back to writing after she retired from her six-year career as a psychology professor.

    “”I would spend a fair amount of time that I have hanging out in the house, letting my mind wander,”” Sullins said. “”Lines, spinets, pieces would appear in my mind and I would jot them down and work on them as parts of a poem. This whole abandoned part of myself was really coming back. It became almost an obsession for awhile.””

    Sullins earned a degree in psychology from Southeast Missouri State University. She then went to graduate school at University of California at Riverside for psychology and later taught psychology at various colleges for 15 years, including Kenyon College, Bard College and 10 years at Northern Arizona University.

    She began retraining as a psychotherapist after she left the academic world and has been working in psychotherapy part time since 1999. She still has her private practice in psychotherapy in Tucson.

    Her work has been featured in Nimrod International, Descant, the South Carolina Review, Concho River Review and Red Wheelbarrow, and is set to appear in Calyx, Flyway and the Pikeville Review.

    Most of Sullins’ poetry is autobiographical and narrative-based. Her style is completely free verse and lyrical, similar to her poem “”Homage to a Red Honda Civic,”” which is a narrative that describes a long trip taken in solitude. She says in her poem,

    “”You haven’t really plumbed the potential of your psyche until you’ve driven across country alone at the end of another affair, especially if you’re driving the little red Honda you bought in ’77 with the drab of divorce money sticky with guilt and bright promise, this car like a red metal womb that six years later has proven more steadfast than any of the cast of characters hitchhiking across your heart.””

    Sullins’ works are mostly mixtures of prose and poetry that describe actions experienced by many people, including driving alone in a car or listening to music, as well as the emotions and images that come to her during those times.

    “”There are times in poetry when the scientist part of me wants to flip back in,”” Sullins said. “”In some ways, there are some ways when the poet part of me is taking poetic liberty with events that happen. And then the scientist will come back. There’s a struggle in consciousness between literal and factual versus what is not literally but perhaps has more metaphoric and symbolic truth.””

    Sullins said she is inspired by other poets who have an ability to convey something that on the surface might seem familiar, but will make her see it in a whole new way in their work.

    “”Seeing something new in this issue, this person – that wouldn’t have occurred to me on my own. It makes me wish and hope I can do the same in my poetry,”” she said. “”I hope it has meaning and resonance for other people, as opposed to what it means for just me.””

    The Other Voices Women’s Writers series is tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave., and features readers Ellen Sullins and Shirley Dunn Perry. An open mic follows the featured readers.

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