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Writer ~ Photographer ~ House-Sitter ~ Teacher

Feature: Discover Jersey Arts

Without Home Feature by Chuck Darrow, Staff Writer

Discover Jersey Arts, Spring/Summer 2002

Excerpt from "Poetry always a part of S. Jersey woman’s life"

Therese Halscheid didn't choose poetry so much as poetry chose her. 

"It was a very strong calling," says the 44-year-old Haddon Township native, who is emerging as one of South Jersey's leading literary voices. "I think poetry was always part of my life. It was always there."

According to Halscheid, whose first name is pronounced “ter-RACE,” the lure of poetry is that it is “a condensed form that is very potent and selective.”

“You’re trying to power-pack (complex ideas and emotions) into a very concise art form. It’s very intriguing to me to take a very strong emotion and be spare with it: How can I take the welling of thought and say it as strongly as possible in a page?”

Halscheid’s intense fascination with poetry was, for years, offset by her knowledge of the financial realities of the poet’s life: Payment for a published poem, she explains, is usually no more than a free copy of the periodical in which the piece appears. As a result, she resisted devoting her life to the art form. Instead, Halscheid taught at Van Sciver Elementary School…. But ultimately, she found there was no choice but to follow her muse.

“I resigned in 1993,” says Halscheid, whose second, and latest collection, Without Home, was published by Kells Media Group…. “It meant giving up the apartment and furniture. I really downsized. I could fit all of me in a car. I began to wander.”

She spent the first months in the Ozark Mountains, living in a motor home on property owned by friends of her family. That was followed by a house-sitting stint at the shore. In both places, Halscheid drew spiritual and artistic inspiration from her surroundings.

“I started to work a lot with the earth,” she says. “I really felt the earth was supportive of my journey. I found different places provide a gift of solace or a gift of enlightment in their own way.”

Such inspiration, she continues, “happens in two ways.”

“I cull from the land images. But sometimes, it’s the mood of the land that sets the stage” for her writings.

Halscheid has always found one spot to be particularly rewarding: She spends a good amount of time at Haddonfield’s bucolic Hopkins Pond.

“I think the pond is very nurturing,” she explains. “I walk around (while working). I call it ‘walking my poems.’ I don’t have a dog.”

Halscheid’s first book, Powertalk, was self-published in 1995. In the ensuing years, her reputation has burgeoned in literary circles.

Reviewing Without Home for White Pelican Review, a national poetry magazine she edits, Nancy J. Wiegel described Halscheid’s work as “radiant, mysterious poems that flow down the page as easily as water, or skip over the page as if going from stone to stone in search of safe footing.”

As far as Ruth Bogutz is concerned, Halscheid is “fast becoming an important New Jersey poet.” Bogutz, executive director of the Camden County Cultural & Heritage Commission, works with Halscheid on the commission’s “An Evening of Poetry at Hopkins House” poetry series, which Halscheid coordinates.

“Her love of poets and poetry comes through,” says Bogutz, who also praises the “enthusiasm she brings to other people’s work.”

“The other poets respect her as an individual and as a poet for the quality of her work.”

Halscheid, who regularly conducts writing seminars in schools throughout the state as a writer-in-residence for the New Jersey Council on the Arts, says her biggest influence is not a poet, but Renaissance artist Michelangelo.

“I like how dedicated he was to the artistic journey,” she says, relating how, unlike other artisans of the time, Michelangelo would make the arduous trip to the stone quarries to see how the sunlight played on the blocks, rather than wait for them to be hauled into Rome.

“I hope I have the same vigilance and am willing to go to those extremes,” she says. “I would want to have that commitment.”