Since Eating the Heart First (Press 53, Fall 2012) is in the design phase and the text is set, I am thinking about what new directions I will take as a writer. What would the future work be like? How can I grow as an artist and be transformed by the experiment of writing?
In 2011, I spent three days at a guest house owned by friends and indulged in a rich “quiet” which was actually comprised of near-constant rain, crickets, wind, thunder. The writing I produced at that retreat struck me as very deep and reflective. Mostly I free-wrote prose passages about the need for solitude and meditation, my experience eating an apple, contemplations of the graveyard not far from where I was staying, and so on. At the upcoming retreat, which will be at the same place, I plan to produce more of these retreat writings and create a chapbook of them.
The poems in Eating the Heart First reflect the knowing and longings of a woman at mid-age, seeing through herself, the world, her lovers and loved ones. I am happy for this book to be coming out, but I am happy also to have closure of the “mentality” of that book. I am at the beginning again; working through new emotional ground, new knowing and seeing.
I want to speak a little about my poetry-writing process. I am a bit set in my ways when I come to write a new poem, although I am always looking for interesting prompts and other creative starting points that allow for breakthroughs.
I usually write new work out on a computer, writing freely across the page and working out images and metaphors that seem interesting, fresh and resonant. For many years, I worked during the wee hours of the night/morning at my desk in the living room but I have for almost two years been sleeping well at night, not suffering from insomnia anymore, so my writing is done in the day time and evenings when others are living around me. I do not have a private office or writing space. I believe that the nature of the writing I did at my retreat last year was different because I was in isolation and not fighting against distractions which is another great reason to go to that secret spot on the planet to write and celebrate self.
If I get a good bit of text when free-writing, like half to a whole page in one writing session, I go into the text and pull out phrases and words which intrigue me. Afterwards, I line up the phrases and create double-spaces between them so that I can survey the work to see any non-obvious connections, or fill in the spaces with more sympathetic text.
I like the pull of energy of this phase. The subconscious is hard at work aligning ideas and interweaving imagery sometimes from the outer world and sometimes from inner visions, memory and dreams. It is a most magical thing to make a poem. There is so much mystery—from where do these enigmatic yet clear, simple yet wise words come? I am on the path to discover as much as I can about the process and the product of the act of writing.
Lines are connected, broken apart and reconnected. I like to work quickly in this phase to be able to get the sense of the poem to cohere. There is time later for careful revisions and edits. This is my usual process for getting a first draft.
Lately I have been breaking poems up with interesting formatting on the page in the latter phase of poem-making. My creativity has a great burst of freeing energy from this experimental effort. I should say that for me all creative writing is experimental. More on that in a future post. So that is a peek into how I work.
I made the joke last night at the Vision/Verse event in Lake Charles, that I work in pajamas and get dressed up only for poetry readings. My daughter pointed out that it would be silly to dress up to write poetry! I thought that was cute. I do think if I put on a fancy hat while I am writing in pajamas that it would be great for elevating my “tone.”
I have been inconsistent with posts but I plan to brainstorm topics related to poetry to write at least one post a week for Orphans of Dark and Rain. If you have any questions you would like to ask me or suggestions for topics I should write about please comment below.
Thanks for reading.