I HAVE often pondered the value of poetry and wondered about its significance in a computer-oriented society. I realize that poetry has very little materialistic value, but it certainly has spiritual value, and it is definitely good for the soul.

Poetry is my private passion; I have a love affair with words. I'm a wordaholic with a genuine respect for the English language and I find searching for the exact word a challenging and sometimes frustrating experience.

When people ask me how I write poems, I explain that occasionally entire poems will come to me in flashes of inspiration, whereas other times many revisions are required to complete a poem.

Like any other form of writing, poetry is a seven-day-a-week, 9-to-5 job. You may not always write poems every day, but images continue to flow through your mind on a daily basis. Some of these images will make an impression on you and stay in your mind, others may recede into your subconscious, surfacing when you least expect in the form of a poem: There's a thin line between the real and the dream the dream is as real as the real is a dream.

I find that I need solitude to write and I produce my best poetry when I am alone and my mind has a chance to float. I find my thoughts are clearest either very early in the morning before my family has awakened or late at night when everyone is asleep and I have the opportunity to devote myself totally to poetry.

To succeed in poetry, you need perserverance, productivity and patience. And you need a room of your own without a telephone, radio or television set.

I have my own writing room and I spend hours of contemplation on my screened-in porch. It is inspiring to listen to a symphony of birds in the woodland setting of my back yard or view vivid-colored flowers that bloom throughout the spring and summer.

Depending on the season, the back yard is filled with daffodils, azaleas (99 of them) and mountain laurel, and the front yard has yellowish-gold and apricot day lilies. I really don't have to leave my environment to find subject matter for my poems. Silver leaf shining in the autumn morning sun September jewel

I frequently write about nature and the scenic places I have visited, particularly the quaintness of Maine, the cultural and romantic aspects of Florence and the untamed beauty of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Some of my poems are autobiographical, others about relationships, including those with my children as they grow older and more independent.

And my poems often contain water images, particularly images of waves. There is music and art in waves as there is in all nature. Waves are the color of the trees, the sky and the sunset. I recall Florida's coral waters, Bermuda's turquoise waters and pink sands, the beautiful, sapphire-emerald waters of Paradise Island and the pine-colored Maine lakes. Even as an adult, the love of the ocean that I knew as a child is still with me.

The most favorable comment that I ever received about my poetry was that it was a cross between "Emily Dickinson and E.E. Cummings." And a reviewer of my first book of poems entitled "Celebration" wrote that "color is fused into image and this is the art of real poetry."

But the real value of poetry is an expression of one's innermost thoughts and feelings and the search for truth and compassion in an impersonal world. In essence, poetry is a gut reaction to life.