These questions came at the right time, as my writing as fluctuated from obsessive to abandoned this summer. It’s good for me to have to think about my writing process.
Thanks to Mary Biddinger for tagging me. Her responses are here, as are several compelling photographs of garbage and/or ruin.
1. What am I working on?
I’m working on a lot of reading. I’m writing when I feel like it and I like what I’m producing, even if it is in small amounts. I took most of April off from writing and then produced a chapbook manuscript in May that (still!) makes me happy. You can read excerpts from that manuscript in BOAAT and Tirage Monthly. I took all of June off from writing and July has been hit or miss.
I’m reading a lot of books I haven’t been able to read because of school and teaching—the kind of reading that isn’t canonical, a must-read for ‘someone my age,’ etc.
I like when people tell me what they’ve been reading, so here’s a list of some books from my summer list (Sorry, I’m linking to Amazon. It’s easier and more egalitarian than author websites.):
God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
Tampa by Alissa Nutting
The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
No god but God by Reza Aslan
House of Deer by Sasha Steensen
The Hard Way on Purpose by David Giffels
My big project for this year is finishing my MFA thesis. I’ve got a rough idea of what I want it to be in my head, but I’m trying to stay openminded. I have a year of writing left in the NEOMFA and I’d like it to be plentiful and transformational.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I like rhyme. I like poet voice. I think these devices are so important to poetry—poets only have three tools: image, music, and connotation. The contemporary urge to make poems more and more subversive has endangered some of these tools.
That said, the divide between poetry and ‘Poetry’ isn’t interesting to me. Poems that are in control of what they’re doing are interesting to me. ‘Control’ is a very loose term in this context.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I’ve been reading and writing about proverbs, especially proverbs from other cultures. I’m writing about these little phrases because I think they’re misunderstood on a huge scale. A lot of editors, readers, etc. treat “proverb” and “cliché” as synonyms. I’m interested in reviving the guiding, timeless nature of the proverb.
4. How does my writing process work?
I take notes, pictures, and voice recordings using the Evernote app on my smartphone. I can access these notes later on my computer. I’ve tried a number of different word processors for OS X, but I’ve yet to find a better alternative to TextEdit. I use Dropbox to organize my poems by month/year. I use Matt Bell’s submission tracker spreadsheet template for submissions. I’m probably more organized than I need to be, but it helps me throughout the writing process.
I revise a lot while I write, which is to say that I eliminate a lot of what I write without a second thought. I have to complete a poem that I begin, which is why I don’t have many long poems. I try several line lengths, stanza groupings, and prose blocks. I read the whole poem aloud at least twice after I settle the visual elements.
I’m bad at setting strict times to write. I usually end up writing around 3 a.m. when the internet has slowed and I can sink into my word processor for 45 minutes or so. Really, I don’t think my act of composition is much different than any poet that uses a computer from beginning to end—I’m just a bit more distracted and a lot more obsessed with the apps and gadgets.
Next up in the #mywritingprocess is poet Portia Elan. Her writing process is one I’ll want to copy after I read it. You can read her responses here next week.
Portia Elan lives with her Gemini cat in the San Francisco Bay Area. She recently completed her MFA in Poetry at the University of Victoria. She also holds degrees in Library Science (Univ. of Illinois) and Medieval History (Stanford). She has two chapbooks forthcoming in Fall 2014: To Yield Like Water & Nothing Else (dancing girl press) and Anti-/Dote: ghazals for the body (Mindmade Books).
Sydney Dust Storm 2009
this is amazing
"Six of Clubs" by Caroline Cabrera—from Coconut 19.
"How Willing a Quarry" by Rebecca Hazelton—from 32 Poems.