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Intermittent Visitors: Daniel McGinn

  Southern California poet Daniel McGinn is the author of 1000 Black Umbrellas. His work has appeared in Litnivorous, Poetry Super Highway, Radius and Beyond the Valley of the Contemporary Poets 1998. He has been a journalist for the East Whittier Review, the OC Weekly and Next Magazine, and has performed at The Bowery Poetry Club in NYC and The Fuse in Philadelphia. He has had five chapbooks included in the Laguna Poets Series.

 

1. What is your writing process?

Here is my process today: I write the first draft with a pen and composition book. I rarely write the first draft with line breaks. I write quickly and try not to think too much. I try not to correct myself while I am sketching out the initial draft of a poem. It is difficult for me not to cross out and correct myself while I am in this first stage but I have learned to just keep writing. I often rewrite, or correct those same sections later, but not in the draft stage. Once in a while, words or phrases that sound odd to me in the first draft become my favorite parts of a poem. I try not to worry about what a poem is doing, or where it is going; I just want to allow it to happen. I like to set the draft aside for about a week before I make changes to it. I think this waiting period helps to give me a little more objective view of the piece.
Writing on a computer is an entirely different process; when I start creating a piece it already looks like a finished product. Writing on a computer isn’t like writing on a typewriter; it will underline every misspelling and grammatical aberration in red and green. I can’t help but look, and in doing so, I interrupt the writing process. I am aware of the spatial relationship of the poem to the digital page and can’t help but write in line breaks. It is so easy to cut and paste that I edit the poem while it is in process. When I write on a computer there is no first draft. I often complete a poem in one sitting. I used to write on a computer a lot but I don’t want to do that at this time.

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

Ralph Angel suggested I record my poems on the iPhone and listen to my speech patterns to determine where to place line breaks. That has worked well for me. I hear more than line breaks when I play back these recordings. I will often make changes to a poem based on how it sounds; sound is of critical importance in poetry.

 

3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your most recent book?

It took years to write. It has all of the elements of a memoir but because it’s a book of poetry I can take a lot of poetic license.

 

4. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?

No. I’ve always been writing something.

 

5. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

I think it does help me know more about what is going on inside and outside of myself but that has never been the goal of writing poetry. The goal is to concentrate, let go of myself and enter the world of the poem.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

“I can feel the movement from Theiclydes to Virgil like some guys feel the trading of a player from the Red Sox to the Yankees.”

I went to the third of this semester’s poetry Saturday University at Vanderbilt on March 23rd, where Garrett Hongo read and answered questions about poetry. The first two sessions were with Thomas Lux and Stephen Dobyns, and my notes for those are here: Notes from Thomas Lux; “The words go just so far, then you come to meet them.” (Stephen Dobyns).

Below are my notes from Garrett Hongo’s session, somewhat cleaned up for public consumption:

Tells story about his family & birth and how post office manager told him family stories when he went back to Volcano (Hawaii) as an adult; read “Volcano House” (“there’s all kinds of quaint Oriental shit in there” he says about it). Talks about his brother, about finding out family stories from his aunties, being told stuff like his grandfather killed his aunt because she slept with somebody in the cane fields: “I don’t know if they’re true, but they sound like they’re true. They explain the violence of families.” Read “Aubade, Kawela“; “Bugle Boys.”

 

Q: so musical, what does it look like on the page?

Long lines (he shows us).

 

Q: why lines and not paragraphs?

“Martin [Rapisarda, the associate dean for Arts & Science at Vanderbilt, who introduced him] alluded to the corrections I made about my influences.”

The line derives from Wordsworth. The measure is a line but the stophe is a paragraph. You have to have 3 lines going:
1. Stichic/lineation
2. Measure/meter – breath line
3. Then the strophe
Together they make up the logic, the music, the sequence of the poem.

You have a verse paragraph which has within it the line, the breath line and the strophe.

A verse paragraph model, not plainly said. I don’t say things plainly; I don’t like to. When I write, I don’t really write in a way to the audience, but I write to honor the ancestors and the canon. These things really live for me. I can feel the movement from Theiclydes to Virgil like some guys feel the trading of a player from the Red Sox to the Yankees.

 

Q: balance of high diction with accessibility?

I love to be read by common readers. There’s a democratic principle involved that I don’t want to make it difficult or obscure or put a kind of intellectual border guard at the door to the poem.

But I trained in semiotics and linguistic theory. I think that so called language poetry is bankrupt. I want to write so my father or my brother could have read it.

Stylistically though, no. My work is a combination of developed aesthetic and the ambition to reach the faithful, the common reader.

 

Q: how you pulled thought processes from different languages and traditions into a whole?

It’s all English, even pidgin.

Tells story about seeing a play as a teen by Derek Walcott with Elizabethan English in Caribbean accent. Whole play was like music to him.

Reads to us from oral history of Hawaiian musician (I’m too interested; I forget to take notes).

I think all languages are inside of us, it’s just accessing them. I’m learning Italian and when somebody talks to me in Japanese, I’ll answer them in Italian.

I’ve scripted out my next three books. I know what they’ll be about.

I don’t do drafts. I do takes. I try it this way and then that way.

 

Q: have you acted?

I ran a theatre company for three years. I like the theatre, but the problem is this: we were producing plays by Asian-Americans and it was hard because there were so many cross-currents of what I’d call subjugation. Most of my actors were bourgeois, and they worried some of the plays would offend their parents or the community; once we had a bomb threat, because somebody thought we were making fun of Chinese people, so they were afraid, and I had to pick them up by the lapels and shake them. Some of them are successful actors and they play these slant-eyed buck-toothed characters because they have to make a living, and I just left because I wouldn’t do that.

Tells story about writing comedy and hating it, deciding to write poetry.

Poetry is a special place in the mind. Different for each of us.

 

Q: could you talk about the internment?

My family was not interned, per se. There were three imprisonments:

The first roundup, journalists, Japanese language instruction, professors, etc, including my maternal grandfather who was considered a hard case because his English was good for Hawaii but not for the FBI. They thought his night-fishing (you light torches, put them in the sand, it attracts the fish) was signaling to the enemy.

The second was the entire community (film Snow Falling On Cedars shows it).

The largest one was 120,000 people, all Japanese west of I-99. Officially apologized for by Reagan.

The internment was like a natural disaster in that it was a complete destruction of whole communities.

Mainlanders and Japanese-Americans from Hawaii didn’t get along. When they saw the fences and guards, after that there was no fighting between them.

To come back from that, the kids wanted success and security above all. It made for a kind of monolithic resolve among my generation of mainland Japanese-Americans.

 

Q: how you work with the past and memory? Dealing with the tension between getting it right and being happy with what you get?

Trained in oral history. That helps. There was a shape to the way folks told stories, a dramatic shape, that gave me a way in. When I do research, I try to work to the point where I internalize the data so I can put it together in an emotional plot like an old-timer telling a story.

Most of my books I think about for years, living with the stories, and then I can write most of the book in a few months, work on it afterward but most of it done in a month or two, but only after years of thought.

 

Q: talk about starting poetry workshops?

My refuge, a place where only poetry happened.

Poetry workshop comes from the actor’s studio model, mutual critique from the whole workshop with the teacher at the end. Can go wrong, with it really being a salon for the faculty.

 

Q: writing for aesthetics vs validation through publication?

Poetry is very different – it’s the most non-capitalized of the writing arts. You don’t get money. It has to do with song and tradition.

Here’s a story: I’m in Seattle doing theatre stuff, and I got flown down to do a meeting with Touchstone. Bill is very preoccupied – he says we’ve got this story about a white man who marries a Japanese woman before WWII, and leads a rebellion out of the internment camps. I said, after I write this story, where could I live? He says fine it’s your funeral. Ten years later, I’m having dinner with Maxine Hong Kingston and (I missed name) and they say he asked me to write that too! They found somebody to do it and the Japanese American League picketed the opening.

The body of knowledge is controlled by power. Truth is constructed according to how it flatters the body of knowledge. Stereotypes. Poetry is like another system that’s another kind if jurisprudence – I’m free to do what I think is the truth.

It sounds idealized, but it’s not capitalized, so it’s not controlled.

 

Q: how does Jack Su fit into this?

He loved music. He wanted to keep playing it. He wanted to keep his band together. A lot of people hated him for that, for pretending to be Korean to avoid internment. Had something of his humanity he wanted to uphold. Not disgraceful. Jack was just a guy who needed music and took it as a higher calling. I never interviewed him so I don’t know what he would have said. Pat Suzuki, a lounge singer, told me a lot of these stories, which is how I know a lot of this stuff.

The new generation doesn’t have that reverence to the elders. They don’t think in terms of why people did things, but it was important to me.

Intermittent Visitors: Judy Jordan

  Judy Jordan is the author of Carolina Ghost Woods, which won the 1999 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award, the Utah Book of the Year Award, the OAY Award from the Poetry Council of North Carolina, and the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award. Her second book was Sixty-Cent Coffee and a Quarter to Dance. She has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, and her poetry has appeared at the Academy of American Poets, and in Prime Mincer, and Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End of Days.

 

1. What is your writing process?

Slow and labored and one of accretion. I have no self-esteem whatsoever and hate my own writing so much of writing for me is forcing myself to sit at my desk and then battling with the “shit committee” in my head which constantly tells me my writing sucks and I need to go back to delivering pizzas. So my writing is a few scrawled lines then those same lines rescrawled slightly changed then some criticisms from the ‘shit committee’ over and over so that by the time I have something like a first draft it’s a page, front and back, scrawled all over, upside down, in the margins, with lines and arrows pointing to scribbles off in the corners, plus various stabs at similes scattered here and there. I then rewrite that onto a clean page, scratch out lines, add lines, scrawl things in spare spaces with lines and arrows, until the page is nearly impossible to read then I start again on a fresh page. A few drafts in I type up the poem then edit the typed copy and continue to do that for a few drafts. This whole process usually takes one or two weeks by the end of which I’m exhausted and hate the poem passionately. At that point I put it away and come back weeks, even months later and look at it with fresh eyes and objectively and see that despite what the ‘shit committee’ has to say, it isn’t all that bad.

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

I can’t remember any writing advice I’ve been given but I do remember once when I was bad mouthing my long, sprawling poems, wishing I could write much shorter and cleaner poems, Gregg Orr quoted some Keats to me: I leaped headlong into the sea and there by have become better acquainted with soundings, the quicksand, and the rocks than if I had stayed upon the green shore and piped a silly pipe and took tea and comfortable advice.

And also this from Charles Wright from “Halflife”: All the well-made, passionless, wooden little poems one sees everywhere nowadays, panting like tongues in the books and magazines. But poetry is not a tongue. Poetry is the dark beast with its mouth open, and you’ve got to walk down that tongue and into the windy mouth. And you’ve got to sing while you walk.

 

3. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

For me, I think it is the former. I spent most of my childhood confused. It was a childhood in which I was witness to racism, sexism, classism, and great amounts of violence. And I understood none of it. It was also a childhood in which people were taken from me. Most importantly my mother who died when I was seven. But other people died also and other people just disappeared (perhaps because they no longer came to visit my mother.) It was a childhood of silences. The whole thing about southerners being storytellers is a great myth (at least in my family) so my entire childhood is a puzzle piece of silences and glances and cleared throats and people answering “I can’t speak bad of the dead.” when asked direct questions. So all my life I’ve tried to piece together this puzzle. Tried to find a narrative thread in a broken story, tried to find reasons for why this man committed suicide, why this child was beaten, and this other child died, this child shot, this man shot, this man jailed, this man destroyed by drugs and alcohol. So all of my writing is about trying to figure out the world, at least my small part of it.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

Intermittent Visitors: Jeannine Hall Gailey

  Jeannine Hall Gailey is the Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington and the author of three books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and most recently, Unexplained Fevers. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The Adirondack Review, The American Poetry Review, The Pedestal Magazine, poemeleon and Prairie Schooner. She volunteers for Crab Creek Review and is a Seattle 2013 Jack Straw Writer. Her web site is www.webbish6.com.

 

1. What is your writing process?

I write a poem or two every week, sometimes more, sometimes less. They are usually inspired, not planned—they happen after reading poetry or fiction, viewing an inspiring art exhibit, even after reading news stories or watching a particularly good movie or television show. They usually happen in patterns and in clusters—a group of poems about radioactive elements, or a group of poems on supervillains, that kind of thing.

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

Let your language and cadences be the most “you” possible. Each of us has our own particular vocabulary, shaped by where we grew up, what we read, the music we listen to, etc. Don’t try to imitate somebody else’s idea of what a poem must be or sound like, don’t try to write a poemy-poem, just be yourself. (I know, I hated it when it was my mother’s dating advice, but it truly is the best idea when you’re writing poetry.)

 

3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of Unexplained Fevers?

Unexplained Fevers grew out of some of the reading I was doing for research on my second book, She Returns to the Floating World. I happened to read two books—Blue Bamboo by Osamu Dazai, which contains a series of retellings of “Rapunzel,” and Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, which is a series of short stories which have two characters that could be related to the sisters, Snow White and Rose Red. I thought about the fairy tale characters I had left out of “Becoming the Villainess,” because I thought they were too passive: The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, and thought up some new ways that they might escape their various traps. During the time that I wrote Unexplained Fevers, I was going through some fairly serious autoimmune and other health issues, and those were reflected in the poems as well. It’s not hard to imagine Sleeping Beauty as a drug addict, or Snow White as someone with chronic fatigue syndrome, when you’re spending a lot of time in hospitals.

 

4. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?

Money is probably the biggest thing that springs to mind. You just don’t make as much writing poetry as you do writing technical manuals. But I don’t regret the switch. Probably also a certain amount of domestic house work remains undone most of the time, as well. I spent the last year working as Redmond, Washington’s Poet Laureate, and that job gave me the chance to see just how important it is to try to make space for poetry in our own back yards, so to speak—libraries, schools, community arts centers, etc. It’s as important to cultivate reading as it is to cultivate writing.

 

5. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

Yes, I think that anyone that goes into writing poetry thinking they know exactly what they’re writing about is fooling themselves. I often discover the themes of my book after I write them. This third book explores some similar terrain as my first book, Becoming the Villainess, but the tone is very different—maybe more funny, more cynical, a tad more, dare I say, mature? That’s what happens when you have a decade happen in between books, I guess. You do a little growing up, and that ends up in the poems.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

Intermittent Visitors: Brynn Saito

  Brynn Saito is the author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press (2013). She co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace. Brynn was born and raised in the Central Valley of California to a Korean American mother and a Japanese American father. Brynn is the recipient of a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship, the Poets 11 award from the San Francisco Public Library, and the Key West Literary Seminar’s Scotti Merrill Memorial Award. Her poetry has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed, and has appeared in Drunken Boat, Muzzle, Verse Daily, Virginia Quarterly Review and Waccamaw.

 

1. What is your writing process?

“Writing” without writing anything down is liberating, so sometimes I write poems in my mind while wandering a city street or while riding a train, listening to music. Other times, I’m good about waking and first thing making my way to the desk to record my dreams and see what follows. Mostly, I try to do a little writing everyday—journaling, free-writing—to “keep the portal open,” as the writer Julia Whitty once advised writers to do. In the end, a lot of my process is tied to community: I get the writing done when there’s a friend, or writing group, or editor holding me to some sort of deadline. Deadlines, I’ve heard it said, are a writer’s greatest inspiration.

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

I love what Annie Dillard said in her book The Writing Life: “Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?” I probably haven’t succeeded at avoiding the trivial, but Dillard’s questions help me to get at the urgency of what I’m trying to communicate in a piece of prose or poetry.

 

3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of The Palace of Contemplating Departure?

The book is a compilation of about eight years worth of writing and revising poetry. I was doing a lot of departing, arriving, coming, and going during that period of my life and the poems in the book write into—and out of—that tension and momentum. I didn’t understand that “departure” was one of the main threads woven throughout the book until my editor, Kate Gale at Red Hen Press, suggested calling it “The Palace of Contemplating Departure” (which is the title of one of the poems in the collection). Suddenly the book revealed itself to me, anew.

 

4. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

The best writing converts wonder to more wonder. Live the questions, said Rilke. I believe writing begins in inquiry, in deeply questioning the things of this world. In marveling at them, in rebelling against them—with words, emotions, and ideas. Every poem or piece of prose is, for me, rooted in a question that is alive for me at that given moment. It seeks resolution, but resolution is never possible, so the world remains wondrous and the writing, inexhaustible. My poems teach me things I would not know otherwise. They know more than I do: they reveal to me my hidden desires and obsessions, they show me who I am.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

Intermittent Visitors: Mary Alexandra Agner

  Mary Alexandra Agner is the author of the poetry collections The Scientific Method (Parallel Press, 2011) and The Doors of the Body (Mayapple Press, 2009), as well as Olivia & the Experiments, short stories funded by her Kickstarter backers to subvert scientist stereotypes with LEGO fanfic.

Her work has appeared in Astropoetica, Eye to the Telescope, Goblin Fruit, inkscrawl, poemeleon, Stone Telling, Strange Horizons and other magazines too numerous to name (a complete list is here).

Her advanced degrees include Earth & planetary science and creative writing. She is a freelance science writer working with Under the Microscope, Argonne National Laboratory, and other markets.

1. What is your writing process?

Idea descends, put words on paper, revise until better.

Getting ideas does really feel like walking through a mess of insects while I’m in web mode: they just come from the air. I usually can’t start on one until I have a phrase or a voice saying something; it’s always the sound of the words that gives me the energy to break into writing.

It takes a lot of practice to keep writing once the voice or sound have spun themselves out, but if I know that the piece isn’t done, I just switch into writing down what *should* be going on, questions if I’ve got nothing else. And when I say a lot of practice, I mean years of it. This is the disheartening part because it’s like the Muse, should you believe in her, has glanced out the window, taking her gaze off of me, training wheels all gone, and wouldn’t it be easier just to fall off?

I rely entirely on my ear to tell me when a piece has been sufficiently revised: I read and re-read listening for unpleasant jangles. And then re-fashion the sound of the jangles.

 

2. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your most recent book?

Olivia & the Experiments has two sources, a personal one and a public one.

I was intrigued by the new LEGO line of blocks “for girls” because one of the characters has an inventor’s workshop and I desperately wanted her to be the kind of girl who did real science with it while wearing pastels and hair ribbons.

The public source are my Kickstarter backers, who funded me to write four stories about Olivia doing real science showcasing that many traits typically considered feminine are a strength in science, such as communication and collaboration.

Additionally, the backers dictated the science in the stories as well as who made cameo appearances. Olivia has a run-in with an NMRI machine, gets up close and personal with an onion nuclear membrane, resurrects Dorothy Hodgkin’s Nobel-prize winning work, and solves a puzzle with a only a telescope and clear seeing.

 

3. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

I have learned the hard way that “no surprise in the writer no surprise in the reader” is true. I often think of interesting things to say but I have found that while they may feel like conclusions, I need to write *from* them into I know-not-what. Into the surprise. Writing clarifies things for the writer—not necessarily the things it communicates to the reader!—but the writer must learn from that act, not just regurgitate.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

Intermittent Visitors: Joshua Robbins

  Joshua Robbins is the author of Praise Nothing (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), a finalist for Miller Williams Poetry Prize. He teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Tennessee, and lives in Knoxville with his wife and son. His poetry has been selected for the Best New Poets 2009 anthology, and has appeared in Anti-, Linebreak, Still, and Verse Daily, and the anthology Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End of Days.

 

1. What is your writing process?

I try to write something every day, at least six lines per day, usually comprised of images and bits of language that I record in a pocket-sized notebook I carry with me. The progress on individual poems comes gradually. Sometimes my poems are assembled collage-style from my daily writings and notes. Sometimes they come from little assignments I give myself. For example: “Write a poem that uses the following words: sunrise, cargo, tunnel, spirit, knife, geography, pattern, reason, smoke, and water.” As I write, I find that the assignments will often trigger something in me and I’ll have an entirely new direction to go, hopefully toward a draft. Once I’ve got a draft, the process is one of counting: making pass after pass over the draft, tinkering with the accentuals and measure, culling superfluous lines, altering syntax, improvising and moving the puzzle pieces around until I finally recognize the picture.

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

“Write six lines per day.” – Arthur Smith
“If you’re going to sit at the piano, you’ve got to know how to play.” – Charles Wright
“In the early drafts, let your ear do the work.” – Laurie Lamon
“Eat the fucking body.” – Garrett Hongo
“Try to write poems at least one person in the room will hate.” – Marvin Bell

 

3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your book?

The manuscript began with an assignment from Paul Zimmer to write a theme-based chapbook. At the time, I’d been thinking about the assumption that the religious can only be autocratic in its relationship to art and, therefore, very difficult to incorporate into contemporary poetics. When Zimmer gave us the assignment, I was reminded of the hymns I sang in the sanctuary after Sunday School: Be Thou My Vision and A Mighty Fortress Is Our God and Abide With Me and The Sweet By and By. What I found was that the hymns of the Christian tradition possessed a unique power for me, one which creates a space where poetry and religious faith (or lack of faith) can coexist despite so much pop-cultural and po-biz pooh-poohing. I ended up writing a dozen poems responding to those hymns I sang growing up. Not all of the poems made it into the final version of Praise Nothing, but that project set me on the path toward a full-length manuscript.

 

4. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?

I would never use the word “sacrifice,” but I have, I suppose, risked some things. One story I like to tell is how I was forced, or so I thought at the time, to read an excerpt of Paradise Lost in high school English class. It was soon after reading Milton where I discovered the power of poetry: Milton’s language had made me, a Southern Baptist’s son, feel sympathetic to Satan! If that’s what poetry could do, I wanted that power, I wanted to be a part of poetry. Soon after, I was cluelessly browsing the local bookstore’s poetry section and waiting for a title to speak to me as Milton had. And then I saw it: Satan Says by Sharon Olds. I was a broke teenager, but had to have it, so I put the book in my pants and squirmed my way out of the store. I never looked back.

 

5. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

I’ve found that writing poetry is a process of discovery. Always. If I’m not learning something about myself, about my relationships to others, if I’m not finding new ways to explore the world and make it new through language, if I’m not made uncomfortable and challenged by my own material, then I don’t know what it is I’m doing exactly, but it’s not writing poems.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

Intermittent Visitors: Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Iris Jamahl Dunkle has had work in Boxcar Poetry Review, Kaleidowhirl, Cleveland in Prose and Poetry, Thin Air, Fence, SNReview, Squaw Valley Review, Stellar Showcase Journal, Verse Wisconsin and Washington Square. She’s been teaching creative writing in both university and community environments for the past eight years, and is the author of Gold Passage (Trio House Press, 2012).  

 

1. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

I can remember back at NYU, Sharon Olds and Jean Valentine would always say that there is no rush to publish. I was a young MFA-er (22) and I was all ambition and drive. Sharon and Jean taught me to slow down and to accept that good work, and finding ones voice, takes time. Now, in retrospect, I’m really glad I waited.

 

2. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your book?

My book, Gold Passage, began as a manuscript back in 2000. Many of the poems were from the thesis I wrote at New York University in 1996-1998. But, over the years, I stared weaving my new work in. What really brought the book to life was a poem-a-day project I did four years ago where I wrote everyday about the history of where I am living now: the house and property where I grew up. The project caused this lyric shift in me. I was also so lucky to win a prize at a press that really cares about the work they publish. The editors at Trio House Press worked tirelessly with me to edit and reshape my work until it became the book it is today.

 

3. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?

What a question! Yes. I wake up at 5:00 to find time to write. I have two boys, ages seven and nine and they generally wake up between 6:30 and 7:00. If I wake up at 5:00 I’m guaranteed at least an hour (after the coffee kicks in) of uninterrupted writing time. I also use all other forms of quiet time I find: commutes, plane rides (sans kids), when the classes I teach are journaling. To get all of this time though I have to give up T.V., a clean house, a meal here and there. It is well worth it though.

 

4. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

I don’t truly understand anything until I’ve written about it. For instance, I grew up and now live in Sebastopol, CA. It’s a small agricultural town north of San Francisco. Growing up here in the 70s, we learned very little about the native inhabitants of our area: the Coast Miwok. In fact, we were taught that no Coast Miwoks existed. I was really disatisfied with this information and I kept revisiting it in my writing. Why were they gone? What happened? As it turns out, the Coast Miwok still exsist, they were just not a recognized tribe until the 1990s because of paperwork errors. Can you imagine that? A whole people erased due to a paperwork? I love the mysteries that history offers. There is so much that is written down wrong and I feel like it is our job as writers to find all those stories that have been left under and bring them back up for air.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

Intermittent Visitors: David J. Daniels

  David J. Daniels’ poetry has appeared in Anti-, Boston Review, Mead: The Magazine of Literature & Libations, Sixth Finch, and Thrush Poetry Journal, as well as in Upper Rubber Boot’s anthology Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End of Days. He is the author of Breakfast in the Suburbs and his chapbook, Indecency, was a co-winner of the 2012 Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. He teaches in the University Writing Program at the University of Denver.

 

1. What is your writing process?

Every morning, I try to write—if not write, read—poetry. It’s a habit I’ve developed since childhood from years of waking up exceptionally early, before anyone else in the house. If I can write on my own, I’m pleased—but mostly I work by imitation. I enjoy a couplet by Thom Gunn and seek to emulate it. Once I’ve started, I work with the language itself, typically through rhyme, seeking out that next line, less concerned with ‘the story to be told,’ which I don’t much believe in (write prose, if you have a story to tell) and more concerned with technique and craft, the silliness of rhyme or the startling echo.

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

Find two or three people who love you, to read your work, who will beat up your bad writing and praise your good.

 

3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your most recent book?

My book Clean emerged after many years—a couple of the poems in it are over a decade old. I found myself writing many epistolary poems, directed to specific (many of them now dead) friends or family members. One of the ways I motivate myself—I think, in order to get out of my own head—is to write a poem to someone in particular. Perhaps it’s an exercise in empathy, an attempt to characterize especially the missing or dead in whole, actual, honest terms.

 

4. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?

Probably, but I’m the wrong person to ask, I imagine. Have I neglected people? Likely, but I’d have to ask them. Writing demands, I think, a certain level of selfishness and extended periods of quieting what’s around you.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

Intermittent Visitors: Roberta Beary

  Roberta Beary was born and raised in New York City. In 1990 she moved to Japan for five years of haiku study. Her The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 2007) was a William Carlos Williams Book Award finalist (Poetry Society of America) and a Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award prize winner. She and her husband, writer Frank Stella, live near Washington, DC.

 

1. What is your writing process?

I write in the early morning hours before my day job starts and late at night before going to sleep. I get about 5 hours of sleep on a good night. I write a lot on weekends too. Sunday is my “full writing day.”

2 a.m.
purple ink stains
my left hand

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

Write for 90 minutes at a time, then take a half hour break. You do not have to write anything during that 90 minutes, but you cannot do anything else with your time except sit (or stand) there. In other words, writing time is not for checking email, answering phone calls, etc. These things will just eat up my writing time, especially in a family-of-origin like mine. I have certain close relatives who seem to live from crisis to crisis and they usually contact me late at night when I am writing. It can be hard not to get pulled into the drama.

rambling phone call
i count the drinks
in her voice

 

3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your book?

When my first husband left I made a list of things I would accomplish on my own. Number 1 was having a collection of my short poems published by a small press.This goal took exactly 10 years to achieve. My book, The Unworn Necklace, is a collection of short poems set forth as semi-autobiography. I entered my poetry manuscript in a small press contest (Snapshot Press , UK) and it won first prize. The hardest part was figuring out an order to the poems that would work, and the next hardest part was getting the editor to agree to my title, The Unworn Necklace.

all day long
i feel its weight
the unworn necklace

 

4. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?

Yes, many things, including time with my children, because when not writing, I was working to support my family as a single parent.

halloween twilight
again this year my son waits
alone at the door

 

5. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

I believe at this point in my life it is about communicating things I already know or am learning on a deeper level. For instance, I take care of my mother who has dementia. I am very interested in using my poems to share what I have learned about this disease with others, especially family care-givers.

from here
to there
mother’s silence

winter solitude
no spark of recognition
in mother’s brown eyes

cheshire moon
mother no better
no worse

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.