Don’t know

January 20, 2020

Before I write a poem, I ask myself what poetry is. I don’t know, and I still don’t know, even though I’ve written hundreds of poems. I have swarms of questions about poetry buzzing around my head. What is it for? What does it do? How is it done? Can I do it? Do I know how to do it? Then while I’m writing a poem: Is this any good? What good will it do? Will anyone think this is a poem? Do I think it’s a poem? Then after I write a poem: How is this a poem, really? What does it mean? Where did it come from? Does it fit anywhere?

Mary Meriam
The Scandalous Confessions of a Lesbian Formalist Poet
The Critical Flame, June 2019

writing is inevitable

January 16, 2020

I write for nothing and for no one. Anyone who reads me does so at his own risk. I don’t make literature: I simply live in the passing of time. The act of writing is the inevitable result of my being alive.

Clarice Lispector
A Breath of Life

a poem is ‘true’

January 3, 2020

There’s a tendency to confuse the speaker of a poem with the author of the poem. And there’s a tendency to believe that a poem is ‘true’ — whatever that means to the reader — instead of seeing it as framed language or storytelling. I’m not immune to the confusion either. Painting is a way to commit to imagination without being called a liar.

Richard Siken
Interview with Kathleen Rooney for the Poetry Foundation

words like nets

January 2, 2020

‘Haunted!’ she cried, suddenly pressing the accelerator. ‘Haunted, ever since I was a child. There flies the wild goose. It flies past the window out to sea. Up I jumped (she gripped the steering-wheel tighter) and stretched after it. But the goose flies too fast. I’ve seen it, here – there – there – England, Persia, Italy. Always it flies fast out to sea and always I fling after it words like nets (and here she flung her hand out) which shrivel as I’ve seen nets shrivel with only sea-weed in them; and sometimes there’s an inch of silver – six words – at bottom of the net. But never the great fish who lives in the coral-groves.’

Virginia Woolf
Orlando

Books

December 23, 2019

Books have a soul, the soul of the person who wrote them and of those who read them and dream about them.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Angel’s Game

writing essentials

December 12, 2019

I can’t write poems anywhere but in my study. My desk usually has at least three book piles on it, but I was feeling claustrophobic so things are looking extra tidy (can’t work with desk clutter).

My writing essentials depend on the project. When I was writing A New Language for Falling Out of Love I required: whiskey, the hours between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm, a colour-changing Jesus light, and a small selection of songs on repeat (can’t remember the songs anymore, but rest assured they were sad).

Even though Notes on the End of the World was my second publication, it was actually the first manuscript I wrote. The writing process for that one is a bit hazy, but I do remember there were a few songs on repeat: “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin and “Eyes on Fire” by Blue Foundation (don’t judge me).

The poems in One God at a Time also had a specific repeating soundtrack (I find that repeating the same song over and over helps me chisel away at ideas), but required less alcohol (although alcohol is always welcome). I know I listened to The Leftovers soundtrack on a loop, as well as Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.

Meghan Privitello
Seahorses, Gods, and taxidermy art – an interview with Meghan Privitello

see a symbol hiding

November 30, 2019

In many college English courses the words “myth” and “symbol” are given a tremendous charge of significance. You just ain’t no good unless you can see a symbol hiding, like a scared gerbil, under every page. And in many creative writing course the little beasts multiply, the place swarms with them. What does this Mean? What does that Symbolize? What is the Underlying Mythos? Kids come lurching out of such courses with a brain full of gerbils. And they sit down and write a lot of empty pomposity, under the impression that that’s how Melville did it.

Ursula K. Le Guin
The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

a bit of fairy magik

November 21, 2019

I have been awake since 4:30 this morning listening to the rain caught in a bit of fairy magik during the quiet that happens when waking after my guts feel sorry and strained then calm it’s still dark one or two cats purring at my feet or near my side the day has not yet intruded my email goes untended the house is settled the day still out of reach shiny as a wrapped present and I read a little bit usually the online version of The Paris Review or some other journal to the blue glow of my iPad this is when my brain works at maximum flow this is the time in which I should write but more often than not I just lie in bed under my snow white comforter and bask until the owls hoo their wake up question I don’t know when exactly I became a morning person I think it must have been when the composer disbanded the orchestra and I stopped going to rehearsals every Tuesday at 7 pm then went out after to The Berkshire Grill with everyone until very late then woke too early to get to work on time I used to practice at night and write at night inside my most creative self but now that I have the forest and the sea to care for mornings have become touchstones they have become magik the fairy time in between sleep and solid wakefulness

Rebecca Loudon
The blue hour

a little depraved at heart

November 14, 2019

These are the poems we stole at dawn. We gathered them in the back alleyways of our old nightmares. They are a little depraved at heart, wrinkled like old shiny skin. And, yes, they crumble when touched. Their rhythms pretend they can save us, when nothing can. And we know that. We know. But we write them anyway.

P

I was born in the middle of last century.

I don’t like that sentence, but it’s based on a true story.

I’ve been a writer for close to twenty years – but a reader for more than fifty. That’s another solid truth, as is: Reading is more important than writing.

But to be frank: it boils down to the same thing. What I’m actually up to when I’m writing a story is that I’m reading it. This borders on a truism; it’s my reader’s eyes that tell me whether it’s good or awkward, whether it’s taking a right bend or a wrong one, whether the characters smell of life or not – not my writer’s eyes, because they are turned inward toward that dark, infinitesimal abyss that is my mind.

Håkan Nesser
Portrait of the Artist as an Old Dog