Many thanks to John for asking me to be part of this "tour," started by Rutgers-Newark Graduate School students Serena Lin and Safia Jama.
How this works: each invitee joins the virtual blog tour and addresses the issue of their Writing Process. We answer four questions, then select two further writers who blog (and who may or may not agree to continue the project!) exactly one week later. On with the Show...ur, Tour:
|An amount of skepticism is needed when faced with|
my answers to any question
1) What are you working on?
Right now I am trying to go through a lot of the drafts, false starts, scribbled lines and triggering ideas that I have surrounding me at home. In other words I'm trying to Finish Things, which sometimes can be surprisingly difficult for me. My secret perfectionism kicks in I suppose and if it's not *exactly* right.....Anyway, I suspect I have enough already (half) written to make up at least one other book, if not two. And I want to go back to a project idea that I had a while ago, but dropped after I found myself talking ABOUT it more than I was actually DOING it, and my 'muses' stopped talking to me. I'm hearing their voices again (I hope that's what those voices are and it's not my medication wearing off!) I also have been thinking about working on fiction again, but I need 'space' for that, and we all know how space (even 'head space') is at a premium in The Big Apple.
Of course the problem (?) is that going through drafts, older versions of things, etc, often leads to completely new material, and I wind up with more than I had before when I was trying to winnow it down! Such is life....
|From "Baltimore Folk" (c) Patrick Joust (http://www.patrickjoust.com/)|
Well, I HOPE it's different - I'd hate to be a copy of someone else, but how or why eludes me. I think sometimes much of my work tends to be more straightforward (on the surface anyway), than some of my peers who I admire greatly. I'm hoping to speak to an audience that often thinks that they don't like poetry, or that it is not for or speaking to them. If I have in my head some idea of an 'ideal reader' (other than myself, and writing to make myself happy) that person I suppose would be it.
Also, too, just as Philip Levine has Detroit and had Cavafy (Ancient) Alexandria, Afaa Michael Weaver and I (and others) have Baltimore as our great haunting hometown subject, to which we come back to again and again.
|Note to self: its best to put your glasses ON when reading|
(with Afaa Weaver at the Pratt Library, Baltimore)
3) Why do you write what you do?
I read something fantastic that I think more people should be aware of, and it becomes a review. I hear an evocative phrase or mash-up of language(s) and it becomes a poem. I see something that ignites something in me and it becomes a story. Interesting news items become Facebook posts or Tweets. Half-baked ruminations on events lead to blog posts...somehow it all seems 'of a piece' to me, regardless of genre. Its just that different forms fit what I'm trying to explore better than others.
4) How does your writing process work?
|Yes, Idris, ANYTHING you say....|
Ha -When it works!
I find it very difficult to do my initial writing or drafting at home. It's taken me a while since moving to New York to find a place to go to write (since I work at The Perfect Place for Poets every day), but fortunately I think I've found one (or two). No I won't tell you where they are.
Lately I've been looking through those drafts and scraps with scribbled phrases and note on them, and find the ones that still have 'juice' or that I feel I can work on for that day. And I begin moving the words around on the page, adding, deleting, putting words back, until I get something that I'm satisfied with. For poetry and fiction, this is done long hand, pencil on paper. I usually write most of my reviews directly on the computer, and go back over it on screen.
After the draft (again thinking poetry) I'll enter it into the computer and later print it out. Probably more drafting, changing, what was I thinking?! will come out of that. Often I put things up on the wall of my bedroom so I can look at it (or not!) for a few days and fuss with it some more. Then I like to put it away, get it out of my sight, sometimes for as long as six months, and come back to the piece and see if there's still something there, or if I have some additional ideas for edits/changes that my subconscious has come up with over those months. There are a few things which have felt 'finished' to me that I skip the steeping time and send them out fairly soon. And I also occasionally send drafts to people whose work and judgement I admire and respect, and ask for feedback.
For the next two writers, I choose Samiya Bashir and January O'Neal - Tag they're "It"!
Samiya Bashir is a poet (Where the Apple Falls, 2005 and Gospel, 2009) and was editor of Best Black Women’s Erotica 2 (2003) and co-editor of Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art (2002).
January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (2009), executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and teaches at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts.