The Creativity Interviews: Poet, Samantha Reynolds

As part of my ongoing quest to explore what it means to live a creative life, I periodically invite kickass creatives to answer five questions about creativity. This week we’re starting something new. My interviewee turns the tables and asks you a question. (It’s a good one, and there’s a giveaway. Wait ’till you see!)

Today’s episode:

Deadlines, grocery stores, unreasonable amounts of love… and a BIG giveaway

SamanthaReynoldsI’m excited (and a little starstruck) to be interviewing Samantha Reynolds, aka, Bentlily. I first discovered Samantha in 2011, shortly after she’d pledged to write (and post) a poem a day. Her intent was to try to “be present and not miss the fleeting first year of her son’s life.” I read the poem for that day, and then the poems for all the days I’d missed, and then I signed up to get a poem a day in my inbox, because by that time I was a happy Bentlily addict. It amazes and inspires me how consistently Samantha “shows up,” every day producing poetry that is accessible, grounded, lyrical and soaring.

Her blog,, has sparked a movement of people around the world to slow down and savor their lives. When not racking up reams of poetry, she runs Echo Memoirs, a publishing company specializing in personal memoirs and company histories. She lives in Vancouver, BC, and is “a mom and wife to two of the loveliest men in the world.”


j: Life is demanding. What are your tricks for getting into a creative space?

Samantha: I’m a jelly mess of indecision unless I have a deadline. It’s why I write my daily poems right before bed. I need that imposed deadline of sleep to fasten me to my chair and charge my creativity into high gear. My only other trick is, if I’m feeling foggy, open the thesaurus and pick a word at random. I always find it’s like a magnet that magically draws an idea out of me.

j: What’s the weirdest thing that inspires you?

Samantha: Grocery shopping.

j: How do you deal with critics?

Samantha: Close my eyes, send them unreasonable amounts of love, and then restore my confidence by reading something over-the-top nice that somebody has said about my work.

j: What energizes you, solitude or engagement?

Samantha: Solitude, but in a public space (part of the appeal of grocery shopping).  I get gobs of energy from going for a walk alone in a busy urban neighbourhood.

j: Fishing line, nail polish, sea shells and an endless supply of colored post-it notes: What will you make?

Samantha: I’m devastatingly un-crafty but if forced to make something for big prize money, I’d write a favourite word (like outlandish and blue) on each post-it note, paint the seashells with the nail polish, and use the fishing line to string the post-it notes and the coloured seashells into a giant hanging mobile.


Now here’s the really fun part: Samantha’s question for you.

Pick an object near you, or one you can see outside your window. Spend the next 3 minutes trying to notice as much as possible about that object. Really bore into it, get beyond the way you’ve heard that object described by other people, look for qualities that you might not expect, like how a pen can look lonely, or the way the sky reminds you of watery tea. Write a few of your observations down – as sentences or as a short poem.


Answer in the comments section. I seriously can’t wait to see what you come up with. I admit. You’ve all spoiled me. I have high expectations. In two weeks (on July 5th), I’ll send all your answers to Samantha and she will read them, pick one at random, and give the winner a limited edition copy of her book of poems.

(I’m going to do it. I can’t resist this prompt, but I promise. I’m not allowed to win. I bought the book the minute it went on sale earlier this year, though, so I can safely say that I’m hugely happy in advance for whoever wins.)


p.s. It’s okay to use the comments section to just say hello, or to ask Samantha where you can get one of her designer giant mobiles.


Samantha closed her eyes, focused her magic powers and picked Karin Corley as the winner of her book of poetry! Telling Karin she won and getting to be on the receiving end of her super excited “Bentlily is a poet-superhero” reaction was the highlight of my Friday, and that’s saying something because I had a really good Friday. Karin has a poetry blog herself, and you can find her on Twitter.


  1. Estrella Azul on June 21, 2012 at 5:14 am

    Love all of the answers, Samantha, and your poetry ever since j introduced me to it.

    • j on June 21, 2012 at 7:51 am

      Thank you for welcoming Samantha, Estrella. I hope you’ll come back with an answer to the question. xo

      • Estrella Azul on June 21, 2012 at 7:55 am

        I will 🙂 (needed to get home from work so I can re-read the post and stop to notice something)

  2. C. Fassett on June 21, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Of course I’m a huge fan of yours, Samantha, and it’s good to get to know you better here. My day doesn’t begin until I read a Bentlily creation. Put a deadline in front of me and the shop doors inside me close with a loud clang.

    Sooo, having picked an object close to me, here’s my observation skills at work (fun!):

    Play Dough sits unused
    wet, moist with possibility
    a seed for an idea
    a tiny bucket of dreams
    awaiting little hands
    to turn a clump of green
    into an emerald dragon
    with eye that magically gleams

    Thanks j, for sharing with us these wonderful people who inspire.

    • j on June 21, 2012 at 8:54 am

      Thank you for playing, Cindy!

      Your response to Samantha’s deadline answer made me laugh. I am exactly like Samantha. I may hate the stress that deadlines produce, but, in the end, I do the work. When I was getting my creative writing degree, I was in my professor’s office whining that I had no ideas for the short story due at the end of the week, going on and on. Finally he said. “You haven’t figured it out for yourself yet, so I’ll tell you. You work better with deadlines. I’m not changing yours. Go, sit your ass down, and just write.”

      He was right, of course.

  3. Patricia MacDonald on June 21, 2012 at 9:37 am

    What an excellent idea J, to interview creative others, and I’m a sucker for even the remote possibility of winning something. =)

    Sitting back in the chair
    I let the cool waft blow over me
    Shutting down the glazing heat of a wave
    Not frequently known here
    Dusty, silent and faithful
    This fan keeps me sane

    • j on June 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      Now I know how to lure you out of your dusty, silent, faithful cave. 😉

  4. Nuttin' on June 21, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Here’s a little something that I’m sure is as profound as say… Mary Oliver.

    little tomato
    hinting of turning red
    lettuce and bacon
    feel so alone
    they call to you
    with this song
    “hurry up and get your ass in this sandwich!”

    Also… Samantha rocks! Haven’t ordered the book yet. It’s on my list for payday pleasures.

    • j on June 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      Ha! I loved that. And we all know what an expert I am!

  5. Estrella Azul on June 21, 2012 at 11:47 am

    And I’m back with my observations, about a postcard from under my desk’s glass 😉

    “Pink-greyish stillness
    prevails over the river
    and the tower near it.
    They look desolate,
    despite millions of visitors
    throughout each year.”

    (the Seine and Eiffel Tower)

    • j on June 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      Yay! Thank you for coming back to play with us! xo

  6. Samantha Reynolds on June 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I’m practically levitating with delight. Love, love, love how each of you see your world. Can’t wait to read more. Big juicy love, xo S.

    • j on June 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm


  7. Ken Carlson on June 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm


    There you sit

    To light
    To burn
    To Inflame

    With words
    Innumerable words
    Organized words

    Of heroes
    Saving the day

    Of lovers
    Learning to play

    Sweet kindle
    Keep burning
    I’ll be there

    • j on June 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      I want a Kindle. You’re not helping. (But at least you’re not helping poetically.) 😉

  8. Rin Meyer on June 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I prefer Haiku…

    brook no quarrel
    convergent intensity
    whipsmart action

    Pokémon Dewott (McDonald’s happymeal toy)

    • Rin Meyer on June 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      my haiku is also ~ WATER ~ Dewott is blue and has a beaver/platypus type tail. ^.^

    • j on June 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      Water or Pokemon dude. How can I not love this?

  9. Natalia Nanton on June 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I love this idea!! Fantastic interview as well!

    Here’s my tidbit:

    Sitting motionless,
    Waiting for it’s prey
    He makes his move
    Putting Jaws to shame,
    The pressure is so strong
    It bends steel.

    Beware, the Stapler.

    • j on June 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      Thank you! (I did not guess ahead of your last line.)

  10. KjM on June 21, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    I was on the train that runs along the Peninsula from San Jose to San Francisco (seems I know the way from if not to) this evening when I read the entry on Zebra Sounds. I looked out through the window and saw…well, before going into what I saw, the following sprang to mind:

    Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the milky way,
    They stretched in never-ending line
    Along the margin of a bay:
    Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
    Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

    with many thanks to the good Mr. Wordsworth. There’s just something to the rhythm and sound of the above.

    And, as it often does in my memory, this followed hard on its heels:

    Fair daffodils, we weep to see
    You haste away so soon;

    courtesy of Mr. Robert Herrick.

    Now, it wasn’t daffodils I saw through the window. What I saw, and how it came together in my mind, is as follows:

    A pair of pine trees
    And there, a singular palm
    Within which – the world?

    Chalk up another enamored of haiku – but you knew that already, didn’t you J?

    • j on June 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      I did! And the only thing I love more than your haiku, my friend, is the mind that gets you there. LOVE.

  11. Pam on June 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I like the mobile already.

    Here’s what I’m looking at from my window…

    Green leaves; so many curving from their stems
    curved like cupped hands, palms down–
    when the breeze whooshes off the fog to the west
    the cups lift the branches
    so heavy with leaves
    in a delicate, complicated motion.

    • j on June 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Lovely. I have to send you the picture I took yesterday. Your entry reminds me of it. (Watch your inbox!)

  12. Kellie Stout Walker on June 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    So full of possibility. Flowing. Smooth. Indelible. I love my ink pen.

    • j on June 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      I like that it’s full of possibility. xo

  13. keishua (@keishualove) on June 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    such a good time for this post. i’ve started writing poems again. i can always use the inspiration. l

    • j on June 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      You still have a week to come back and maybe win Bentlily’s book. (If you haven’t checked out her blog, go. It’s nothing if not inspiring.)

  14. Jolly on June 26, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I love Samantha’s poems, it’s such a daily inspiration. I too tried to write one everyday but it was much harder than I thought, so now I write one when it is willing to be written.


    It had almost been
    a wedding gift,
    this mug, milky white,
    not quite translucent,
    with traces of tulips.
    The husband had said,
    “The green one is mine,
    you can have this.”
    Our first sharing, perhaps,
    apart from the rings.

    Morning after morning
    my lips curl around
    its glistening, curving rim,
    like a secret kiss.
    Steam and smell
    serenade my senses,
    as liquid flows into me
    like a warm caress,
    wiping away troubling,
    traces of nightmares.

    I had taken it with me
    on a holiday once,
    lain it among my clothes.
    The thought of drinking
    from a strange cup
    had seemed askance.
    Like wearing
    someone else’s clothes,
    or waking up to find
    a stranger in my bed.

    As I hold it now,
    seeping in its warmth,
    I begin to wonder.
    Have I ever seeped out?
    My breath whispering,
    dissolving into those curves.
    If someone were
    to take it to their lips,
    would it sing out to them,
    my sonorous secrets?

    • j on June 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      I wouldn’t even entertain the thought of writing a poem a day! But Samantha did inspire me to read a poem a day, every day, in 2012. Today, it’s yours, which clearly was willing to be written.

  15. Faith Squared (@Faith_Squared) on June 27, 2012 at 7:49 am

    How fun! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Pig At The Ready

    the piggy bank faces
    away from me,
    in that standoffish
    way that pigs have

    i imagine he’s angry,
    once again so empty
    this time thanks to new
    shoes or new tunes or
    new who knows what?

    polka dotted ears,
    squiggly random orange
    and green lines,
    something that resembles
    a flower on his foot

    and his owner’s name:
    Ian, in thick red paint,
    the ”n” smeared to the
    point of being

    this pig has seen
    a lot of coins and
    dollars come and go
    over the years, he’s
    done a good job of
    allowing the flow

    one day soon
    his 12-year-old
    master will move
    on to more grown-up
    ways of managing his
    cash…wallets and debit
    cards and such

    but for now, the pig
    stands by, stares out
    the window, patiently
    waiting to be fed

    • j on June 27, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Love this. Is there a picture somewhere? I want to see if my imagination is close.

  16. Marit on June 28, 2012 at 6:47 am

    The notebook lays open
    The to do list is very visible
    It’s not long
    but there are some headbreaking problems on it
    she has to deal with.

    She should start with it.

    She thought that yesterday too
    instead, she went walking.

    She thought the same this morning
    instead, she went painting

    Long shadows fall over the page
    It’s the end of the afternoon
    and too late to start
    (or so she fools herself)

    she thinks
    “I will start tomorrow.
    Tomorrow will be different”

    She turns around and walks away.
    Yet another day gone…

    (sorry if there are grammatical or spelling mistakes – I’m a Dutch writer and I didn’t take much time to overthink this text but it was fun to do!)

    • j on June 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      I love it. And “her” for walking and painting instead of tending to what “must get done.” xo

  17. Sophie Scruton Rapp on June 28, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Clam shell
    antique white with a dull grey hinge
    thick from the years of
    rocks and stormy seas
    where you were, no doubt,
    as happy as a clam is happy.
    You look worn here on my desk,
    tilted at a tired angle,
    spilling out the flotsam and jetsam
    of paper clips, safety pins, stray staples,
    a tiny bulldog clip,
    and the rhinestone brooch
    my husband found in the dirt
    of a Georgetown parking lot.
    Does the moon still tug at you
    as it tugs at me,
    two island creatures
    bewilderingly far from the sea…

    • j on June 28, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Gorgeous. I love how much of your life you brought into this. And for some reason, I adore “where you were, no doubt, as happy as a clam is happy.”

  18. NM (@echo90803) on June 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I can’t tell you how quickly I fell in love with receiving a poem in my mailbox every day from Samantha. Her poems have such immediacy and even though we live completely different lives I’m often surprised at how her words make me think of something similar going on in my very different daily life.

    Mockingbird on the wire outside my window,
    I love your tail and the coloring on the underside of your feathers
    Your song does not mock me but rather soothes me
    and makes me wish I could fly with you.

    • j on June 29, 2012 at 11:02 am

      That is Samantha’s magic I think – noticing the details and reminding us of what’s right before our eyes. LOVE your “ode to a mockingbird.” xo

  19. Karin on July 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Wow, an opportunity to allow myself to be inspired by Samantha’s philosophy. I for one love her poetry–it would be awesome to have it all together in a book ^^

    My poetry is modest, but I’ll give it my best shot 😉

    “The Loneliness of an Oak Tree”
    I study the oak tree’s corruption
    Caused by the very nature
    That eventually tears us all apart.

    I wonder if it knew
    From the beginning
    That it would prosper alone
    Until nature relinquished its charity
    And left it to suffer
    At the hands of time.

    Storms, animals, insects
    Have worn it down
    Near to death.
    It reminds me
    Of a story I heard
    About the woodcutter who cherished himself
    And lived alone.
    At the end,
    There was no one with him,
    No legacy to leave,
    Just a piece of wood,
    Rugged at the edges.

    • j on July 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

      I think your poetry is more beautiful than modest. And I’m glad for that.

  20. Julia Fehrenbacher on July 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    You’ve been ignored for days, sitting there motionless
    next to the avocado and mango
    your yellow now freckled and bruised
    As I lean in closer I see
    you are stamped with the word “grow”
    and then I find myself wondering
    where you’ve come from
    why you remind me so much of myself
    which reminds me of my grandfather who said you were sweeter
    the riper you get
    which, for some reason
    makes me notice an emptiness inside
    an ache to be savored
    and understood

    • j on July 5, 2012 at 10:02 pm


  21. j on July 5, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    She has sad eyes, and if I didn’t know better
    I’d think the sadness comes from seeing too much of the world –
    all the cruelty and pain and stupidity and indifference.
    But I take a step toward her and she rolls onto her back,
    legs straight up, a panting smile.

    The truth is
    I know better than to mistake her cunning for sadness.
    She’s wielding a mournful expression because she’s learned
    it often results in a belly rub.

  22. Samantha Reynolds on July 6, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Such juicy minds. So honoured by all of your poems, and your kind words. xo

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