Lenoir author P.J. Witt distills life lessons into book of poetry
P.J. Witt is grateful.
That’s really the only way to describe Witt, 75, who lives in Lenoir and just published her third book, "Just Sometimes."
Witt is grateful for everything. She’s grateful for her family. She’s grateful for Lenoir – she’s originally from up North, Pennsylvania by Indiana by way of Connecticut, but moved here years ago.
And she’s grateful for the opportunity to write.
"Just Sometimes" is her third book, a collection of poetry that she said is an attempt to sum up the lessons learned in 75 years of life.
“I’ve done two children’s books, and my kiddos wanted me to do a children’s book again,” Witt said. “But I said, 'Nope, it’s my turn. Seventy-five years of trying to figure out life – I need to write down my philosophy.'”
Witt is a writer because years ago, she went to buy bread and it cost 57 cents. She only had 47 cents, so she went home, fed her kids peanut butter and jelly on crackers, and started baking bread.
She kept baking her own bread for years until, one day, her first poem happened.
“I was up to my armpits in bread dough,” she said. “And all of a sudden, a poem came into my head, full-blown done.”
Witt started sloughing bread dough off her arms, searching for a pencil and paper so she could write the poem down. The poem she wrote is printed on the 15th page of "Just Sometimes."
“When all mankind can gather,” the poem begins, “standing near with none apart …”
After that, Witt wrote about marriage (she has been married for 53 years to her husband, Allan). She wrote about unkind people, and how “their hurt isn’t necessarily about who I am.”
She wrote about the fact that you don’t have to figure things out all the time – just sometimes.
“As I figured things out,” Witt said, “I wrote them down.”
Witt is a master at reading out loud. She has a storyteller’s voice and mannerisms. As she reads her poems, her head bobs from side to side and the cadence of her voice moves up and down dramatically.
You can hear her gratefulness in the way she reads her poems, and the words she uses to describe everything in her life: "Awesome," she says again and again. "Marvelous."
Witt says it was a simple phrase that changed her life: “If you change the way you think about things, the way you think about things will change.”
It’s a quote attributed to self-help author Wayne Dyer. Witt saw it years ago, and the words dramatically rearranged the way she thought about her life.
She said in an interview that she hopes someone will find something similar in "Just Sometimes" – some little snippet that will change the way they think.
“If somebody can find some little phrase in there like that – I mean, it was just a few words,” she said.
Then she went back to reading aloud from her book, the pages flipping, the words gently moving up and down.