Wayzata poet shares how growing up in England to becoming mayor of Medina shaped her creativity.
Writers find inspiration everywhere. Past experiences, surroundings, interests and influences are often credited for the ideas generated before the pen hits the paper. For Elizabeth (Liz) Weir, immersing herself in the natural world, observing daily life and adding her own experiences contribute to anthologies of poems she’s used to publish two books.
The Wayzata author recently released her second book, When Our World Was Whole, a compilation of 65 poems. In 2016, her first book, High on Table Mountain, hit bookstores’ shelves. (It was nominated for the Midwest Book Award in 2017.)The author admits she never intended to write a book. Her poems merely satisfied a lifelong love of writing, but as she surrounded herself with other published poets, she decided to organize her work.
“To my surprise, [North Star Press] was enthusiastic about my manuscript,” Weir says of her first book. “It was exciting, and I didn’t really think I’d ever get a second one out … but lo and behold, my second book came to be, this time with Kelsay Books.”
When asked what inspired the author, born in the outskirts of London, she laughed. Not because it was a silly question, but rather her life has been full of inspirational events and situations—a trajectory she labels as, “rather odd.”
From a working as a night shift nurse in South Africa to serving as mayor of Medina, Weir shares the story of her life, her inspiration.
The Early Days
Born during World War II, Weir grew up in the southern part of England, noting the times were very difficult. “We had food rationing right through the 1950s for each member of the family,” she says.
At that time, careers open to women were limited. Weir trained as a nurse at a large hospital in London, but as a single woman, she recalls being “hungry to see the world.” She says, “I met some young people from South Africa, and they raved about their country. I decided to travel there and planned to be gone for only a month.”
A month turned into several years of adventures in South Africa and travels to different places. She then met her husband and had two children. In December 1978, the family moved to Minnesota.
Life in the United States
Arriving in Minnesota during the heart of winter isn’t a memory Weir lists among her favorite recollections. “I felt lonely, locked in a snowy house with my boys,” she says. “It was hard at first, but then a young neighbor knocked at my door with a toddler in hand. That was the beginning of my engagement in this country.”
Other than the challenge of getting used to driving on the other side of the road, things began falling into place for Weir. To become a nurse in the U.S., she enrolled in a local community college for nursing refresher courses.
Weir also began to explore her love of writing. “I applied to the Lakeshore Weekly News because they needed someone to cover daytime meetings,” she says. “I covered the Carver County Board of Commissioners’ meeting. The commissioners were amazing. They were all old farmers who smoked like chimneys.” Weir laughs as she recalls covering the meeting to pass a ban on smoking in public areas. “They puffed on their cigarettes right up to the end,” she says.
The newspaper liked Weir’s work, and she began an arts column. The new endeavor had her following local art shows, ballet companies and theater.
“I eventually worked for Skyway News, covering theater downtown,” she says. “I was fortunate enough to receive scholarships from The New York Times and the Star Tribune to attend the Theatre Critics Institute in Connecticut.”
Successful work followed Weir when she became involved in the planning commission of Medina, eventually as chairperson. She then served as a city councilor for 10 years and mayor of Medina for two years, where she retired in 2014 at the end of her term. “See,” she says. “It was a rather odd trajectory”
After her retirement, Weir spent much of 2015 organizing her poems before they became published in 2016. “I like some sense of form; I don’t rhyme, and my rhythm is somewhat comfortable,” she says of her work. “I love imagery and sound in poems … There’s some humor, too.” She describes her work as accessible, not too “highbrow.”
While her poems touch on pieces of Weir’s personal life, others feature the inspirations of nature and an awareness of taking care of the world. “I love to walk, especially in natural areas,” she says. “As I’m walking, I might observe something, or a thought comes in my mind by observing human behavior.”
While Weir enjoys walking with friends, solo excursions are also appreciated because that’s when her mind begins to work. She says she believes people like—and crave—honesty in poetry. “When a reader can see some of their own lives in what others write, they connect on a deeper level,” she says. “I enjoy offering that.”
A Late Winter Walk in Wolsfeld Woods
By Elizabeth Weir
Wolsfeld, but a remnant of what used to be,
my companions soaring oaks,
maples, bass and ironwoods,
the native cover for this land.
The song of the wind plays
their bare branches and,
below my path a stream,
swollen with snowmelt, gushes
in a deep ravine. An owl,
disturbed by my presence, wings
across the open space
to alight in a maple on the far side.
The bird hoots a four-note call,
“Who cooks for you?” Its mate
answers, “Who cooks for you, all?”
Together, they fuel a din of indignation
that resonates through the vaults
of their wooded home. Well scolded,
I hasten from their concern,
comforted by the grace of great trees.
Unseen, a woodpecker tap-taps
a resonant bough. Too soon,
I reach the woodland’s edge
to re-enter the mangled lands of man,
loud and jangled, and sense
the thinness of the world.