Today is my day on #TheBlogTour where writers and artists answer questions and their processes. Thanks to Sally Deskins for tagging me for this week!
Each writer answers the same four questions each week and then links to three more writers who will submit their answers next week with the hashtag #MyWritingProcess.
Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Stirring.
WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
I’m an currently cleaning up a finished manuscript that deals with both Alice in Wonderland and my divorce–the poems were an awakening of sorts after not writing for several months after the initial separation. I was broken (emotionally, mentally) but also deeply angry and, in some ways, embarassed. I didn’t know how to put those emotions on to paper until I was teaching Alice in a literature course at the University of Tennessee, thinking about adaptation and what stays the same between each iteration. It was then that I realized what I loved about Alice wasn’t the strange world that she found herself in, but rather that she had no goals, no demons to vanquish, no score to settle. She just moved forward because that’s what you do. That’s how you get from one place to another.
The poems came slowly, and as I healed from the separation, they began to change, to open up to other places, to bring in new characters, to look at my past and my present all in a linear line that made no sense. Everything was through the looking glass, the same but only backwards.
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
This question feels like I’m supposed to answer something elitist, like “My work is unique in the entire world of poetry because”…and I’ll be honest, it isn’t. Poetry doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Writing this collection, I read back issues of The Fairytale Review, the Alice issue of Gargoyle, the poems of Stephanie Bolster, the short stories of Angela Carter, and then I watched about twenty different variants of Alice. I read Carroll’s notes. I read Alice Lidell’s letters. I read the first draft of Alice (Alice Underground) with Carroll’s own illustrations. I read biographies. I read critical essays. I was inspired by friends, by pop music, by YouTube videos, by OKCupid ads. Everything.
My work isn’t different from others; it’s inspired by others.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
I think I write what I do in large part as a way for me to frame my own female experience in this world. There is something about the density of poetry that I really like, the way one image can echo, reverberate through an entire book of poems, through the entire way that we look at the world. I write poetry because there is an imperative to see the world through metaphor, through the knotting of one thought to another, a daisy chain of conversation that exists outside of time or response.
I like how in poetry you can say a thousand different things depending on what flower you reference, what shade of sky, what song rumbles on your radio. How these small choices are what draw empathy and strength.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
I write at my computer. Partially because I feel that I can’t write without Google or Wikipedia anymore. When I resort to pen and paper, I come back to the words that I love too much–“break,” “red,” “bone,” “history,” “forsythia.” When I’m at the computer, I can find out what the state bird of Tennessee is—a mockingbird—or the type of grass that grows most commonly in Georgia—tall fescue. Words that never would have come to me are served up on silver e-platter of language. When working on my current book, I also always had a print and digital copy of Alice at the ready, so that I could peruse my own notes and well and do word searches to tie images directly to scenes in the novel.
When I am stuck, I open my favorite poetry volumes and read first lines. I’ll find the things I dogeared in periods of my life where I felt the same and re-read whole collections. We always tell our students that in order to write well, you must read well. I think this is true in my process too—how can you even begin writing without reading? And how can you continue it—poem by poem—without even more?
Here are the three writers who will post their contributions to #TheBlogTour next week:
Letitia Trent‘s first novel, Echo Lake, will be published by Dark House Press/Curbside Splendor in 2014. Trent poetry and prose have appeared in the Denver Quarterly, The Black Warrior Review, Fence, Folio, The Journal, Mipoesias, Ootoliths, Blazevox, and many others. Her first full-length poetry collection, One Perfect Bird, is available from Sundress Publications. Her chapbooks include You aren’t in this movie (dancing girl press), Splice (Blue Hour Press) and The Medical Diaries (Scantily Clad Press). She was the 2010 winner of the Alumni Flash Writing Award from the Ohio State University’s the Journal and has been awarded fellowships from The Vermont Studio Center and the MacDowell Colony. Trent is currently book review editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection and a frequent contributor to Bright Wall/Dark Room and The Nervous Breakdown.
A writer and visual artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of several books, chapbooks, and zines, including girl show (Black Lawrence Press, 2014), the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press, 2013), in the bird museum (Dusie Press, 2008) and the fever almanac (Ghost Road, 2006). She lives in Chicago, where under the guise of dancing girl press & studio, she curates an annual series of chapbooks by women authors, edits the online lit zine, wicked alice, and creates a variety of paper based arts & crafts. Her poetry chapbook, I*HATE*YOU*JAMES*FRANCO, was released in 2012 by Sundress Publications, and her full-length collection, major characters in minor films, will be published by Sundress in 2015.
Lisa M. Cole is the author of the poetry collections Heart Full of Tinders and Dreams of the Living, and is a contributor to Wood Becomes Bone: A Mental Health Awareness Series, all three titles forthcoming from ELJ publications. Lisa has also written six chapbooks; most recently Negotiating with Objects from Sundress Publications; The Bodyscape from dancing girl press, & the forthcoming Living in a Lonely House also from dancing girl press. She was a recipient of the Lois Nelson Award in Creative Non-Fiction in 2005, & was a runner-up in SLAB’s Elizabeth R. Curry poetry contest earlier this year. When not writing, Lisa teaches writing workshops in Tucson Arizona’s prisons as well as in various places within Tucson’s vibrant literary communities, including the University of Arizona Poetry Center, & Casa Libre En La Solona. You can read book reviews of her fellow poets’ work at her blog & find her on Facebook in both personal & professional capacities