Flapper Press Poetry Café Welcomes Lynn L. Snyder: A Poet Bringing Heart to a Complicated World
Updated: Apr 14
By Annie Newcomer:
The Flapper Press Poetry Café features the work of poets of all ages from around the globe. This week, we highlight the life and poetry of Lynn Snyder!
Since her first short story, “Mrs. Goose and the Backwards Compass,” in second grade, Lynn L. Snyder has loved writing, among her other aspirations: cowgirl, nurse, nuclear physicist, back-to-the-lander, folklorist, shaman, futurist, baker. Then she bought a house, a fixer-upper, and life had to get real. Software engineering supported her house habit, but she kept striving for her dreams: singer/songwriter, wife, gardener, environmental educator, poet, protester, and a person related to the universe like a cell is related to the human body. She does her part. In the end, she expects to be compost.
We reached out to Lynn to talk to her about her work and inspirations.
Please meet Lynn L. Snyder!
Annie Newcomer: Lynn, we are actually sitting in a popular café in Kansas called Homer's. I am guessing that it won't take us long to transport ourselves to the Flapper Press Poetry Café. How I love the ability to imagine. I have been looking forward to chatting with you because your walk with poetry includes your love of ecology. This passion cracks open an interesting and meaningful way to engage with writing. Might you share with our audience how you incorporate the two?
Lynn L. Snyder: As a kid, I went to camp where I heard loons, pinched off wild wintergreen leaves, and learned to paddle canoes silently. Magic! In college, I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and learned my first lesson on how fragile this web of life is. Since then, I’ve backpacked, river rafted, and bicycled through our United States. I’ve paid attention to the beauty and the damage. One day, I was dissing myself for collecting coffee grounds at the workplace for my compost bin at home, keeping them out of the landfill. What difference can that make? My friend said. . .
“Would it be valuable if everyone did it? If so, it’s valuable for you to do it.”
Most people understand the dangers of letting human technology destroy everything that makes life on Earth work but can’t see their role in the solution; and even if they did, habits are still hard to change, even for me.
So, this I can do: I write poems that create a moment and a place, and I aim to infuse the poems with all the love—or fear, or fascination, or determination—that I feel.
AN: We actually met at the Kansas City, Missouri, Public Library when you offered a class through the library in collaboration with the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a part of your MFA program in poetry. Tell us about this experience and how this opportunity connected you with the university and the community. What did you enjoy most about teaching at this level, and what did you discover that you hadn't been aware of before? And how did this connection benefit you as a poet?
LS: You are talking about UMKC’s and the Kansas City Public Library’s collaboration on the Writers for Readers program, including the Maya Angelou Book Award and classes where UMKC students teach a wide range of writing classes. I was involved during the height of the COVID issue, so all my classes were online. Our faculty advisors told us to expect that our classes would be made of people who were beginning to write, and they encouraged us to give our students “the MFA experience.” My students included a few beginners, but more were experienced, published poets, and all levels in between were represented. The MFA experience included the basic writers’ workshop, where the poet gets thoughtful feedback in a form designed to give the poet insight into how readers reacted to their work in a way that empowered them to choose whether to revise or not. I think we all yearn for kind-yet-helpful feedback. When I started, I was so nervous that my mind would go blank in class sometimes. Annie, I am grateful for you and the other poets retrieving the lost thought so that we could continue. By the end of my two-year fellowship, I felt relaxed and loved the creativity of the students.
AN: What might you suggest to others who are entertaining the hope of following a similar path and entering an MFA program in poetry?
LS: All education is intrinsically valuable. In the real world, however, most students are interested in whether they can make a living and whether they can improve their art. Yes, the MFA forwards those objectives. Mostly, I’ve seen graduate MFAs get jobs in magazines or teaching, but also businesses look for talent in clear communication when hiring our graduates. Our professors periodically mention the impressive statistics of graduates publishing and winning awards.
The strongest reason to join an MFA program is connecting with your fellow students, who may become trusted readers; you get lifelong access to potent feedback when you need it, and you get to give the same when asked.
AN: How does academia advance poetry? What are its limits?
LS: Obviously, the professors share the tradition of poetry as well as look for exciting new work. They teach you the “rules” like “the most important word should be at the end of the line,” and then they show you how to artfully break all the rules. They set deadlines so that you expect to graduate with a body of work.
As for limits, I think “the people’s” spontaneous variations on the art of poetry are slow to be picked up. Even professors who performed at poetry slams don’t seem to teach it. In a class at UMKC before I joined the MFA program, I mentioned that I was a songwriter, and the professor responded, “That’s not poetry.” I was offended, but sure, not every song has poetry. Yet, I’m all about the lyrics, and I insist that some great poetry is embodied in songs.
AN: What is the most important thing that you have learned in graduate school?
LS: Here’s a few:
Find your writing community. Read more than you write, and write constantly. Keep revising. Share your work.
AN: What do you love most about being a poet? Are you shy about sharing this status, or do you announce this proudly to others?
LS: Writing poetry makes my brain happy, left and right hemispheres shaking hands. My husband doesn’t believe me when I say that it often takes me longer to find a topic than to draft the poem. I like catching some hidden associations.
I am shy, but my husband isn’t. He would pull out a poem and make me read it to friends and neighbors. Now, when I have fellow writers to dinner, I warn them to be prepared to respond in kind.
AN: What question do you wish I had asked but didn't? Please ask and answer.
Lynn's Question: What are your writing goals?
I’ve mentioned my concern for the environment. It is an existential crisis. I believe there are solutions, but these are largely being blocked by the democracy crisis in the USA. I want my writing to discover solutions and bring factions together. I know this goal is bigger than I am, but if everyone shared it, it would make a difference.
AN: Thank you for sharing with us in the Flapper Press Poetry Café today, Lynn. I would like to end our conversation by asking you to share three poems and their backstories with our readers.
I learned about atmospheric rivers in the 2017 Climate Reality Leadership Training in Denver. The concept was unknown to the general population. As I offer this poem on January 17, storms fed by atmospheric rivers are flooding California from San Francisco to San Diego. Now we all know.