Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Blog Tour

Today I’m going to do something different and talk about myself. I’ve been asked to take part in a kind of blog-chain blog-attack called, apparently, "The Blog Tour” and answer the following questions and, given that some time has passed since my last post, I’m happy to do so.

Thanks, Min Kang and Laura Mullen, for being the immediate predecessors to this occasion. I’m not sure who started the Tour, but I hope readers will dig into at least these women’s work (both have poetry-films available for viewing online) and the work of the two amazing poets I've tagged to respond next: Emily Kendal Frey and Derrick Austin. I’ll post their bios with links again at the end.

1. What are you working on?
I’m working on "rejuvenation," to use a word that makes me think of body wash, which requires a lot of “down time.” I just finished my first manuscript as well a trialing first year in grad school, during which, among other demands, I was shoved to the front of the class and instructed to instruct. Interesting. My feeling has always been that teaching comes from a place of wanting to teach and having things to say. But anywho.

Since finishing the manuscript, I’ve had a hard time finishing the manuscript. I’ve been stuck in a loop writing poems that belong in the manuscript, but I’ve had some success working my way out of it, with the help, I should say, of Claudia Rankine’s book Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and its diary-meets-journalistic approach to confession, its little digestible squares of revelation, and horror, and filament.

My ms is finished, however, and I’m looking for a publisher. Please email me at if interested.

I’m sort of cooking up a poetry-film in my brain—maybe a longer one this time, that combines film essay with poetry-film, and documents the bizarre, constructed world of the MFA, or maybe just college, and personal life, and “creativity.”

I’m working on being a person, though, and not anything much else at the moment.
2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

How does a Magnolia leaf differ from the shadow of a house? Or a clover from an earthworm? I am thinking of the genre of poetry as my backyard and of me as the backboard for horseshoe left by previous tenants. But that’s because I’m me. Imaginary things can also exist.

My friend said recently that there’s an economy of language, but I think, “but I’m a poet.” Another says “humor,” but I think heartbreak. Someone says “directness of speech” and I’m like, “Yeah.” It’s pretty hard to be objective about these things. I’m coming from a very liberal, pretty feminist place.  

3. Why do you write what you do?

I get stuck in a loop. A line from one of my poems is “i think a thing about rivers / and i forget like how to walk into a field.” I get stuck on a thing. Sometimes for years. Mostly the thing is love, romantic love—very seldom am I not talking about love. But I am thinking of breaking out of that loop (if possible).

4. How does your writing process work?

Sometimes, like with the film-essay/poetry-film I mentioned above, there are ideas that take shape and start to solidify in my brain. These are harder to execute. Sometimes they don’t get made. A lot of times they don’t get made, because they feel made before they are made. Like “What’s the point of making this? I’ve already seen it now in my brain.”

It’s better when a thing comes up sudden like. (Like puking?). My first chapbook eraser poems (forthcoming, H_NGM_N Books) happened that way. My second chap (unpublished) was unexpected. The ms happened pretty sudden (for a book length work). But all this is after a decade or so of trying to figure out what kind of writer I am and trying things. I’m still trying of course.

Having “success” come this way kind of reinforces the idea, for me, that art shouldn’t feel too much like work, which maybe reinforces my “laziness” to some extent. I don’t do heavy editing; I don’t write every single day; I don’t have a routine. I’m ok with giving myself “time off.” I trust that my instinct is to write, and make art, and be engaged, and that you don’t lose your instincts. If something “doesn’t feel right” or “isn’t working,” I usually lay off and trust that if it’s important enough it’ll come up again later ("come up" again, heh).

Writing seems sometimes a lot like faith, which is weird because I’m not really big on faith in general. It’s like that Skittles commercial where the kids are sitting on a rainbow and one kid is like “How are we doing this?” then falls through the rainbow. I think it’s like that. The creative process is not, in my experience, quite as nice as chilling on a rainbow, but it is probably about as unusual and isolated, and you have to be okay with a certain amount of mystery being involved.
See what these amazing poets have to say about their process during the upcoming weeks:

DerrickAustin is a Cave Canem fellow. He earned his MFA from the University of Michigan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, New England Review, Crab Orchard Review, Memorious, Unsplendid, and other journals.

Emily Kendal Frey lives in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several chapbooks and chapbook collaborations, including FRANCES, AIRPORT, BAGUETTE, and THE NEW PLANET. THE GRIEF PERFORMANCE, her first full-length collection, won the Norma Farber First Book Award from The Poetry Society of America in 2012. Her second collection, SORROW ARROW, is available now from Octopus Books.