John Fry, who is steadily curious and supportive in his love of poetry and poets, asked me to answer these questions and said some very kind things about my work. I’ve never met John in person—only corresponding via FB, but I’ve just learned from his blog that he’s a Sagittarian, which now makes an incredible amount of sense to me. He’s the author of the chapbook silt will swirl, and you can find his work in Colorado Review, West Branch, Water~Stone Review, The Offending Adam, Laurel Review, Octopus, among others. He recently earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Texas at Austin and is now in the PhD program studying Medieval Literature.
Step 2: Answer questions about your (writing) process:
1. What are you working on?
A hybrid manuscript. Being a better person. Not trying so hard. Learning about somatic tools for conflict resolution. A 3-volume book of poems called Twang. About place, time, story as pieces of the images we carry and some kind of life meditation on how these fit together or not and sort themselves or not. Text/book as space for movement of word, mind moving, body moving, self moving, past/present oscillating toward future space. Improvising mind making its mark on the page. Also, learning German and Farsi, bit by bit.
2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
I like being rangy on the page. I resist the one page poem with a title. It’s the introvert’s payback from all the years of having to listen to people go on and on and being the only one really listening to anyone (it felt like this). I’m starting to see my work as something larger than the poems I produce or publish, that my practice(s) in certain time/space are what really creates my work, whatever that is or whatever it becomes. Because I love movement as a form and words as a form, and because I have practiced them both for years and years, I try to hold a tension between them—I’m composing movement sequences on the page, shifting the energy of perception or shapes of things, with words but with some kind of choice of conscious mind that comes from my movement improvisation practice. I’m trying to embody moments even though you can’t see the body on the page, necessarily. Or maybe you can.
There are many others who are working with ranginess, embodiment, the movement of words, and I’m just offering my particular brand, steeped in a childhood of the rural south (of the US), restlessness, wanting to see and experience the world and to touch it and show it all to you again, dear reader, and probably also to show it to myself, and to the ones who are always talking, were they to ever keep quiet.
3. Why do you write what you do?
Compulsion toward freedom and space. I’m torn between story (the power/life of them) and experimentation with form and narrative, using line, space, interruption, etc. as tools of perception switching. Where is the space opening? Where are the moments of presence? Can I create ways/places/spaces for something else (what is it) to come through, to emerge? Also, just for the fun of it.
4. How does your writing process work?
Depends on the project. Recently in a dance project I was involved in, we used an alternating process of improvising movement then free writing, in several rounds, so that one form directly fed/influenced the other form, so the writing process was deepened by entering into nonverbal and improvisational expression—and in a more embodied way, and the writing was also changed—and I’d say what I realized in this research was the shift of consciousness that happens in generative processes…
If we’re talking about poems, my process over the past 5 years or so has been to record notes, impressions, free writing, lines/ideas, passages from other writers I love, in an unlined notebook. I accumulate 1-2 notebooks usually before I have the itch to see what’s there, and then I spend time transcribing/downloading these from the notebooks to the computer. I make most of configurations here. Then I put this away for a long time. I have noticed that it serves me better to give a lot of space between each of these times of the process, to let things sit in the notebook, then in the computer, then as a manuscript to let it really cook. It’s so much easier to see what a thing is with time creating the distance.
One other method I’ve been trying is to type/write directly into OMMwriter, which blocks the normal computer screen and allows me to concentrate. I use this primarily to generate material and to practice reaching a daily word count, especially when working with prose.
NEXT: 3 poets I want you to know about: Carol Roundtree Jones, Margit Galanter and Éireann Lorsung
Carol Rowntree Jones recently won the Overton Poetry Prize and the Asham Award for short fiction (2013) with her story “Level and Nearly Unaffected.” She’s the author of the chapbook “And separately we are,” from dancing girl press, and has poems in 111O, The North, Assent, Virago, as well as anthologies. She published an essay on Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring in 111O. She teaches creative writing in prisons in the UK, and runs the current incarnation of the Nottingham Poetry Series. Look for her poem about a childhood in Bath.
Margit Galanter: I chose Margit and her work because I want to push the boundary here around what is a “poet/writer” as well as what is the “writing process.” I met Margit at Earthdance in Massachusetts a few years back, and while we swam across a lake towards rock formations in the middle, swimming and talking, swimming and talking, she called herself a “dance poet,” which I loved. Margit moves, writes, thinks, performs, makes performance, teaches, does bodywork, collaborates, presents, travels, and swims, among other things. Her writing and way of being in the world troubles my automatic, socialized binary—you must be THIS or THAT, and I’m grateful for this. Of her latest project RELAY, she writes: “RELAY is a dance poetry project inspired by the visual poem collaboration CONCORDANCE, by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge and Kiki Smith. The project is an investigation of the alchemy of language, movement, and place.”
Éireann Lorsung: I encountered Éireann’s poems first in Minnesota when we were graduate students together. She has become a trusted friend, reader, editor, publisher, collaborator, teacher, and troublemaker. I am constantly inspired by the scope and heart of her work, her intensity of feeling and the diverse ways she expresses that—she is also a multi- and trans-disciplinary artist, and I have learned a great deal from her about the interplay between art forms and how they deepen and inform the other. She’s a spitfire, she tells it like it is—but with a listening and attentive presence. She’s the author of Music for Landing Planes By and Her Book (which is also partially influenced by Kiki Smith), both from Milkweed Press. She’s working on so many things, and you can check those out here. She writes amazing essays. Also, here’s a piece of fiction.