Point Loma writer finds inspiration for poetry all around
Author and artist John Thomas Wood has released a book of poems to add to his 10 other books in genres ranging from self-help to novels.
A self-described “occasional poet,” John Thomas Wood finds inspiration wherever he happens to be.
On a recent sunny afternoon, the Point Loma resident was hanging out at the beach. He often can be found by the water at Sunset Cliffs or Shelter Island, enjoying the outdoors and reading.
“Sitting here in the sunshine, there’s a bunch of pelicans that flew by,” Wood said. “I’ve written two poems about pelicans since I’ve been here.”
But Wood isn’t just a beach bum; he’s a writer and photographer with a long portfolio of work.
Wood, for whom the concepts of power and discovery are central to his writing and art, talks about his background, career and pursuits.
The now-retired Ph.D., author and artist has devoted the past 40 years to empowering and encouraging individuals and organizations to reach their highest potential.
And he’s just published a book of poetry called “Only One Poem.”
The title, he said, came from his musing, “If you could only write one poem your whole life, what would it say?”
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The 153-page book is a collection of poetry Wood wrote from 1975 to 2022, including some he jotted down on the way to the publisher.
It contains about 100 poems, covering “love, death, sex, politics, sports and anything you can think of,” Wood said.
In selecting the poems to publish, Wood went through hundreds he’s penned over the years, choosing “the ones that ring true.”
“If it touches me, I have to decide if it touches anybody else,” he said. “We all share the feelings of love and loss and loneliness.”
His said his inspiration for writing often comes from what is around him.
Wood said his line “Starlight is memory” came as he was looking at the stars and realized the light took a long time to travel here and “what I’m seeing is basically in the past. I need to build a poem around that,” he said.
At other times, it might be a line or a memory that jump-starts his creative process.
“Sometimes a line will pop up in my memory and I think it’s interesting and I will try and build a poem around it,” he said. “If it’s a good line, it needs to be included.”
“I don’t like to write or photograph something meaningful to me and just leave it in a drawer. It’s an expression that wants to find a home.”
— John Thomas Wood
He said he thinks his poetry is readable because it’s always written in a conversational style, not formal.
“Poetry is ‘pithy’ — it has a depth and intensity to it,” he said. “Most stuff you read every day isn’t going to zing into your heart.”
Still, deciding to publish a book of poetry was “agonizing,” Wood said.
“I went back and forth about it. Who wants to read poetry anymore? But I decided to either fish or cut bait; do it or forget about it. So I did it,” he said.
Wood isn’t new to published work; he’s written 10 other books in genres ranging from self-help and personal development to novels.
Across all of his books, power is a focus.
His first, “How Do You Feel: A Guide to Your Emotions,” was published in 1974. It was later renamed “The Heart of Feeling.”
He decided to write that first book because “I think I know something that will help somebody,” he said. “I thought at the time [that] people really needed to understand their emotions, what they were and how they have them.”
Wood’s first foray into poetry came early.
“I don’t think my writing has changed since the sixth grade,” when he had a poem published in his elementary school newsletter, he said. “Maybe I’ve learned a few new words.”
He’s been writing ever since.
As a journalism major at San Diego State University, he was the managing editor of the school newspaper. In 1962 as an undergraduate, he began writing for the San Diego Union.
He spent 17 years at the Center for Studies of the Person in La Jolla, beginning in 1969. As a resident fellow, he worked with Carl Rogers and other humanists, “applying the ideas and practices of client-centered therapy to education, politics, health care, group therapy, international relations and business,” he said.
Wood has worked throughout the United States, Mexico and Western Europe as a psychotherapist, university instructor, consultant and workshop leader.
For four years, he led a program in the U.S. and the Netherlands aimed at improving physicians’ person-to-person skills.
No matter what he was doing, he continued to write. He also became interested in photography.
As an artist, Wood has been making and selling fine-art prints and photography for the past 10 years. He has had several exhibitions of his work and published a book of his favorite prints, “Imagine,” in 2020.
His photograph “The Orphan” is on the cover of his new poetry book.
Whether writing or making art, his motivation is the same, Wood said.
“I write in order to make a connection. The piece isn’t complete until somebody reads it or sees it,” he said. “To me, it’s the beginning of a communications loop. I don’t like to write or photograph something meaningful to me and just leave it in a drawer. It’s an expression that wants to find a home.”
To hear from people responding to his work is “lovely,” he said. “Poetry reminds us we are all human. If it rings a bell with you, that’s great.”
To learn more about Wood and to order any of his work, visit lovingpower.com.