A Long Island poet channels Siesta Key inspiration
By Hannah Wallace
“The beach is my office,” said Joan Beverly, a Long Island-born poet and journalist who lives half the year on Siesta Key. “I go to the beach with paper, yellow pads, pencils and pens. I sit on my beach chair. I look at the sand and the water. Inspiration comes to me. Thoughts flow to my head.”
Whether teaching English on the Long Island north shore, covering the Manhattan arts scene, or hosting Sarasota poetry readings, Beverly’s lifelong literary career has been one of natural flow. Her latest book, a lighthearted collection of haikus about motherhood, is set to be released later this year.
“The first time I was published I was 10 years old,” she said, remembering the time a Manhattan newspaper published her Father’s Day ode. “I was always writing, bringing up little poems for my teachers to look at.”
Her affinity for words grew from there. She wrote award-winning pieces through high school and served as editor of her school newspaper. She cultivated her professional writing career while also teaching English as an assistant professor at Nassau Community College (now SUNY Nassau).
Once, while in line at her favorite yarn store, she overheard a conversation between the store owner and an ad manager for the Port Washington News. Beverly suggested the store use the slogan, “Let us keep you in stitches.” The ad manager liked it so much he offered her a job. Soon Beverly had earned local fame with her own weekly column, “Joanie’s Corner.”
From there Beverly wrote for a number of Long Island-based newspapers, then North Shore Magazine, then Good Living, Night Life Magazine, House Magazine, and Spotlight Magazine. She went to Hawaii as a travel editor and covered the Manhattan gallery scene as an arts writer.
In her spare time, as a self-described “perpetual student,” she began attending poetry classes and workshops. “I liked what I heard, and I liked doing it.” Some of her poems, too, were published nationally and earned awards from organizations like Long Island’s Performance Poets Association and the National League of American Pen Women.
“I’ve been lucky,” she said of each new opportunity.
Similar good fortune first brought Beverly and her husband to Siesta Key more than 20 years ago.
“We got lost,” she laughed. “My husband and I had been staying (regularly) on Longboat Key at the Colony. We became acquainted with St. Armand’s Circle. We really got to know this area.”
Then, in 2000, a friend who lived in Englewood said to them, “I want to show you a beach.”
“A beach is a beach,” said Beverly’s husband.
The friend responded, “Not this one.” She took them to Siesta Key.
Beverly fell in love first with the beach and then with the Village. “We couldn’t believe our eyes, it was gorgeous — the sand, the openness, the bars, the boutiques.”
She and her husband purchased a home almost immediately and have lived here “six and six” ever since.
After more than two decades, Beverly continues to draw new inspiration from the tropical setting, and from the people she meets here. Just as she had in Long Island, she sought out Sarasota poetry readings and soon hosted her own at Books-a-Million and Selby Library. She workshopped new pieces over lunch with fellow Sarasota writers at Turtle’s, Marina Jack and C’est La Vie.
In May 2021, she published Tender Chains, a poetry collection, through Sarasota’s Peppertree Press.
Throughout her career, Beverly has worked to share insights, inspiration and even playfulness in her writing, no matter the medium. In addition to future plans for a children’s book, one of Beverly’s upcoming poetry collections will be Haikus for Jew-talian Mothers, embracing the joyful idiosyncrasies of Jewish and Italian parenthood.
“I like the sounds of language, the sounds of the words,” she said. “I love the crisp language of poetry, the idea of saying so much in as few words as possible.”
While COVID-19 has hindered many in-person literary events, Beverly continues to look for ways to share her insights. She encourages new writers to soak up every resource they can find and embrace their own inspirations — including their community.
“You need the support of people around you,” she said. “Let your mind go. Don’t censor anything. Take a course, read a book, do some research. And then let it flow, and go from there.”