Thanks to Carole Craig, who passed me the torch on this interesting string of posts by writers who write blogs. I’ve been reading her blog and was inspired by her post. I also took a look at Darran Anderson’s post (an Irish writer) and Susan Lanigan’s post, all part of this intriguing meme–very different writers answering the same four questions from their unique perspective. This seems to have started in Ireland, and skipped across the pond. Here’s mine.
what am I working on?
Well, poetry as always, but it’s spring, so the garden is taking a lot of time now, especially the labyrinth which requires many hours to rein back to its original, walkable shape. I’ve been trying to reread the Russian philosopher Berdayev, who captivated me years ago–slow going, a little each day. While I never read cookbooks, I’ve been mesmerized by Judy Rogers’ techniques and recipes in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook–much more of a conversation than a straight cookbook–and have been making a bunch of them. I was devastated to learn that she died last December and I can’t simply cross the bridge and talk to her. It was like losing a new friend just as I got to know her.
I’ve been seriously considering revising and serializing a novel that’s been sitting in my drawer and posting a chapter each week in the prose section of this blog, but so far haven’t committed to that; it’s a BIG undertaking. Any support for that?
And finally, I’m preparing for a trip to St. Petersburg (Russia, not Florida!) and hope to read from my book of translations, Poems from the Stray Dog Cafe: Akhmatova, Mandelstam and Gumilev, at the Stray Dog Cafe itself, whose picture graces the cover.
how does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think of my poetry as “radically accessible.” That is, straightforward, not hard to understand, and (hopefully) with profound impact. I also use a lot of humor, somewhat unusual in poetry. After a craft talk by Galway Kinnell, I spent a year writing without using the personal pronoun–no I or we in my poems–a very interesting exercise. Sound is also really important to me, internal and slant rhyme, assonance, the music of words. Increasingly I memorize my own work to recite as opposed to read it. I don’t try to break experimental language barriers or create unique shapes on the page. Like my hero, Mandelstam, I try to use words for their intrinsic meaning, not as symbols for something else.
why do I write what I do?
I write to make sense of the world, to articulate the confusion and coherence and wonder I experience. Poetry seems the right medium for that. Publication is much less important to me than the experience of “getting it,” a marvelous high, as good as sex, really.
how does my writing process work?
Every morning, first thing in the morning, a cup of tea and something to read, then write. Often, I have no ideas. I write anyway, just start putting words on paper every morning, butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard. I don’t have a word count or time requirement. A good haiku is a huge accomplishment. I throw a huge number of things out. I organize work by year, and at the end of the year, look in the folder and put poems into categories: eh is one category (just one step before the recycle bin), but also like diary entries, best, translations, worth working on. I revise a lot–that counts, as does translating, a great way to keep in practice when I have absolutely no ideas. The point is to engage the world through writing every day. I get better through practice, and if inspiration should choose to visit, I’m ready. Another bit of advice from Galway, when I write something I really like, I don’t pat myself on the back and take a break–I keep going; good writing comes in spurts.
There are dry periods, of course. I’m very unhappy when I’m not writing. It feels like I’m less alive, like I’m not doing the most important thing–this is why writing has to be first thing for me–once the tasks of the day take hold, I’m lost.
And finally, I nominate Nina Serrano to take it from here.