The writing process-words, imagery, outline… huh?

outline

 

Upper Rubber Boot interviewed me about my writing process! Here is a little bit of that interview:

1. What is your writing process?

If you’d asked me that question ten years ago, I would’ve said that I collect words. I wrote only poetry at that time so my focus was on imagery and metaphor. When I had enough words, I formed them into a poem.

Five years ago I would’ve said I think of a theme (astronomy, clouds, angels) and go from there. Three years ago I’d have told you that I write an outline, then work on a book chapter by chapter.

Now that I’m focusing so much on novel-writing, I begin with my characters. I give them names and a history and something that affected them greatly in their past. When I’ve figured out who they are, I put them into a situation of conflict. The characters decide where to go from there.

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

Just keep writing. I don’t recall hearing this at some point in time and having some sort of realization. Rather, it’s the advice that everyone says over and over again. The more you write, the better you get at it. It takes a long time to grow comfortable with your voice. If you want to improve your skill, the only way to do it is through practice.

If you want to read the rest, click here: Upper Rubber Boot, Intermittent Visitors – a multi-author blog tour

Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour roundup: week four

Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour – click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.



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  • 22 April 2012: 3 Questions for Heather Kamins (at Miriam Sagan’s Miriam’s Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond)
  • 22 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — David W. Landrum (at Christine Klocek-Lim’s November Sky Poetry).
  • 22 April 2012: Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour — Angie Werren (at T.A. Smith/Yousei Hime’s Shiteki Na Usagi)
  • 22 April 2012: Yousei Hime (at Angie Werren’s feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 23 April 2012: Guest Post by Carol Berg (at The Wordsmith’s Forge: The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette)
  • 23 April 2012: Couplets: Interview with Iris Jamahl Dunkle (at Francis Scudellari’s Caught In The Stream)
  • 23 April 2012: Guest Post by Stella Pierides (at Sabra Wineteer’s The Bloomin’ Blog)
  • 23 April 2012: Featured “Couplets” Poet: Julene Tripp Weaver (at Christina Nguyen’s A wish for the sky…)
  • 23 April 2012: Margaret Dornaus (at Angie Werren’s feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 24 April 2012: Macbeth and Probabiliby (Michael Round at JoAnne Growney’s Intersections — Poetry with Mathematics)
  • 24 April 2012: Exploring the blueshift on the Couplets blog tour (review of Blueshifting at Sherry Chandler‘s blog)
  • 24 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Catherine Rogers (at Christine Klocek-Lim’s November Sky Poetry)
  • 24 April 2012: Fiona Robyn (at Angie Werren’s feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 25 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Timothy Green (at Christine Klocek-Lim’s November Sky Poetry)
  • 25 April 2012: balance and flexibility: Molly Peacock part one (at Joanne Merriam)
  • 25 April 2012: Couplets: Crossing Genres with Iris Dunkle (at Wendy Brown-Baez’s Wendy’s Muse)
  • 25 April 2012: Fiona Robyn (at Angie Werren’s feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 26 April 2012: Kathy Uyen Nguyen (at Angie Werren’s feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 26 April 2012: Couplets: My life as a poet (Anne Higgins at Sue Burke‘s Mount Orégano)
  • 26 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Lizzy Swane (at Christine Klocek-Lim’s November Sky Poetry)
  • 26 April 2012: NaPoMonth Guest: Mary Alexandra Agner (at Stella Pierides: Literature, Art, Culture, Society)
  • 27 April 2012: elbow grease and enthusiasm: Molly Peacock part two (at Joanne Merriam)
  • 27 April 2012: Couplets Blog Tour: Carol Berg Hosts Pat Valdata (at Carol Berg’s Ophelia Unraveling)
  • 27 April 2012: Poetry with Math — BRIDGES 2012, Limericks (John Ciardi at JoAnne Growney’s Intersections — Poetry with Mathematics)
  • 27 April 2012: Couplets Poetry Tour & Sharing Your Story (Lisa Cihlar at Michele Fischer’s Finding Your Voice)
  • 27 April 2012: Stella Pierides (at Angie Werren’s feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • 28 April 2012: Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — Stephen Bunch (at Christine Klocek-Lim’s November Sky Poetry)
  • 28 April 2012: Weaving Words, an interview with Ned Haggard (at Wendy Brown-Baez’s (Wendy’s Muse)
  • 28 April 2012: Couplets Blog Tour: Celia Lisset Alvarez on Poetry & Politics (at Sunslick Starfish: chronicling the amazing ideas and adventures of Ching-In Chen: Writer & Community Organizer)
  • 28 April 2012: From Nature’s Patient Hands: For Couplets, Elizabeth Barrette (at Wendy Babiak’s What I Meant to Say)
  • 28 April 2012: Marty Smith (at Angie Werren’s feathers: micropoetry (and tinyprose))
  • Three Poetry Reviews for National Poetry Month

    According to my dictionary, blueshift means “a shift toward shorter wavelengths of the spectral lines of a celestial object, caused by the motion of the object toward the observer.” In “Blueshifting” (Upper Rubber Boot Books), Heather Kamins opens the collection by playing with this idea. The speaker in the poem reveals that we are all “flying into the foreshortening / light of evening. . .” The poem uses synonyms and images of blue to move the reader forward through the emotional realization that we are all moving toward something: a great blue heron “sliding through the fading sky. . .” or an astronaut “accelerating / toward the azure bubble of home,” In another part of the poem, the speaker and her loved one move into each other emotionally under “cobalt light”: “you look at me, / as time tucks up under itself.” All these movements are realized in the color of the imagery, but the reader isn’t left with mere fragments of pigment. Rather, the poem brings us forward along with the speaker into discovery. As the title poem for this collection, it’s an apt introduction to the rest of the work.

    Not every poem uses color quite like the first, but as I thumbed through this chapbook, I was struck by the way Kamins threaded the scientific images with intellectual realization. In “You Are What You Eat,” nearly every line compares a sweet food to a cosmological phenomenon: “meteors like oranges,” “galaxy of sugar,” and the closing image, “candy store of infinity.” Kamins deftly weaves these morsels into a sort of visual wonder. She brings taste and vision together as her affinity for astronomy convinces the reader that every single mystery of the universe is worth chewing over and appreciating.

    In “Insomnia,” the poet continues that sense of wonder. Instead of filling the poem with frustration and difficulty (as so many sleepless nights feel), she talks about those delightful sounds that one only hears in the dark: “ceaseless polyphony” or the breathing of a lover. I was delighted with the sense of awe that rose through lines like this one: “wild neurons / weaving the spider strings of memory.” In the end, the speaker asks: “How can I sleep / in a world so full of such things?” The poet makes me wonder the same thing and perhaps the next time I’m lost at 2 am, wakeful and unhappy, I’ll stroll through the dark and remember to look around me with awe instead of dismay.

    Kamins closes the collection with “Redshifting.” Yes, I looked it up: redshift is the opposite of blueshift. And so after moving toward enlightenment (in a most scientific sense with gorgeous imagery and a skilled and steady emotional hand) the chapbook’s last poem moves the reader away from realization and toward “the rusted-out night.” There are too many “unanswered questions” for such a short book. As a reader, I wanted more poems, more of Kamins’ beautiful imagery and wonder. Even so, this last poem reminds me that there are still mysteries for me to hold close: “Every mile glazing into every next mile / sings a mystery. . .” The mystery itself is worth something. This poem reminds me to always wonder, always question the universe, even as I recognize the familiar in that which can’t be named.

    “Redshifting” might be my favorite poem of all.

    Measured Extravagance” by Peg Duthie (Upper Rubber Boot Books) begins with the poem “Practicing Jump Shots with William Shakespeare.” I hesitate to use the word “extravagant” to describe it, but that’s exactly what the poem called to mind as I raced through its lines without stopping for a breath. The first sentence spans eleven lines and reads like a car chase except instead of cars, the reader is driving sentences. It gives the sense of a fantastic race where the finish line rewards the winner with a delightful story: the speaker is playing basketball with old Shakespeare himself.

    There’s some talk of meter and some onomatopoeic words (“DAH-dah, DAH-dah-dah”) that call to mind the dribble of a ball, but that isn’t what endeared me to this opening poem. Rather, it was the sense of mischief at the very end where the speaker taunts the old man about his attention to “different parts of the backboard. . .” Instead of a simple image of a poet throwing a ball around, the poet elevates the scene into metaphor where one of Shakespeare’s lobbed iambs end up in the speaker’s hand. She shoots and flings it “straight through the hoop, all net.”

    I’m delighted. Extravagant and clever, the poem is a fitting introduction to a collection that spans decades, personages, and cities with ease. In “The Language of Waiting” the poet brings us to Prague where “the evaporated words of saints / mingle with crumbs of ruined sandstone. . .” and then transports us to Nashville.

    In “On Embodying an Asian Fantasy” the speaker laments the stereotyping that falls upon Asian women: “I’m their Chinese dream come true—” The reader is simultaneously transported from American culture to feminism within the context of ethnicity.

    Toward the end of the collection we end up in Chicago, England, and Boston in “Between the Hints.” The speaker muses about “what we can make is what // will do for now. . .” Oh how we humans are forever striving! Duthie cleverly twists that idea into all its permutations within the rhymes of this poem’s form, using iambic pentameter and quatrameter so wickedly that the reader doesn’t even realize how smoothly he/she has been schooled.

    In all, Peg Duthie has put together a thoroughly extravagant collection of poems. The reader journeys through locations of the mind as well as those of the earth; I was never quite sure what I’d get as I turned the page, but I was always surprised. As the speaker says in the poem “Extravagance”—”Such a feast.”

    I confess, sonnets are one of my very favorite forms of poetry so I was naturally disposed to enjoy “Sonnets in a Hostile World” (Victorian Violet Press). Fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, rhyme—what’s not to love? Sonnets are never too long or too short and in the hands of a skillful poet like Gail White, they’re a delightful reminder that formal poetry is still alive and doing very well.

    This tight collection of sonnets moves effortlessly from the betrayal of women (ancient and modern) in “Woman into Tree” to a romp on the hideousness of a high school reunion in “Why I Failed to Attend My High School Reunion.” Lines like these “(For God’s sake, someone point me to the bar.” make me laugh while others are tremendously sobering: “. . . no one sees / how many sweet words fall from walking trees.”

    I suppose it would be strange to read a book of sonnets and not mention the meter or rhyme, but White’s poems did something that is often quite difficult—they made me forget I was reading formal poetry. All too often a poet stumbles over iambic pentameter and substitutions (is that trochee or an anapest?) and torments the reader with a litany of trite rhymes.

    Ms. White is a far better poet than that. Her sonnets flirt with enjambment but never fall into the abyss of randomn line ends. In “The Girls Who Got Ahead,” she impressed me with these:

    When all the bright girls married, where was I?
    Still shacking up with poets that I met
    in bars, convinced that genius and rye
    would write us into fame and out of debt.

    There’s just enough variation in the lines to appease the reader’s habit of falling into a nursery-song cadence, yet not too much enjambment to entirely destroy the rhythm of the words.

    In “The Librarian Wishes She Had Lived in the 1920s” White manages to rhyme “bourgeoisie” with “camaraderie” with nary a quibble of doubt from the reader. Her rhymes are sometimes slant, but always spot on and integral to the poem. I didn’t find any filler rhymes, those awful words that less-experienced poets plop at the end of lines in order to meet the requirements of the form. Each of White’s sonnets is a fest of sonics. I paged through the book reading just the end words as a sort of litmus test: the poet passed with flying rhymes.

    “Sonnets in a Hostile World” is at times amusing and often harsh, as White lays bare the truths that underpin our society: women often get short shrift in our world. However, she doesn’t litter the entire book with desperate verse. Rather, the collection as a whole is more intelligent than that. At the end I put the book down with a sharp view of what it means to be a woman writing in a men’s world without being totally disillusioned or discouraged. As White says in her last poem of the collection, “Cats Abroad,” “Where cats are loved, I know that strangers meet / a kindly welcome. . .” There’s nothing to do but forge ahead with pen in hand, hoping that our poems will meet a kindly welcome. If not? All of us women will keep writing anyway.

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    Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour – click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
    Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
    Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.



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    Week 2 Roundup of Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog book tour

    Roundup of Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog book tour

    Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — S. Abbas Raza

    — a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim

    S. Abbas Raza
    (Founding Editor of 3 Quarks Daily)

    1. What is your favorite poem that you’ve written? Read?

    Learning By Heart” and much as I would like to pretend to be more erudite than I am by choosing something a little more obscure for my favorite of all poems I have read, I’m going to be honest and go with “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens.

    2. Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?

    I have no idea.

    3. Has the rise of the poetry MFA been positive or detrimental to the art?

    I have no idea.

    4. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?

    For an audience, sometimes a specific reader.

    5. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?

    Mostly inspiration for me, which is why I write so seldom. For example, the imagery of the last stanza in the poem I have given above as my favorite of any I have written came to me in a dream (a faceless man dressed in a dark suit was explained to be the evening itself by a friend in the dream, who then went on to suggest we put a bright tie on him). The rest of the poem was worked backwards from there.

    6. Bonus question! Answer any one of the following:

    a. Do you ever include the works of others in your readings? If not, why not? If so, who and why?

    I’ve never done a reading.

    b. If you were a Celtic bard, carrying poems from place to place as if they were the last flame, which ones would you sing?

    Waiting for the Barbarians by Cavafy.

    c. Why do you read or write poetry?

    For fun and also sometimes to impress girls.

    d. How has the way you write changed (or not changed) over time?

    It hasn’t.

    e. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

    A Coke Zero, which is my breakfast everyday.

    f. Anything else you’d like to say?

    Christine, I’ll add this: I have written MANY, MANY poems over the years for friends and family to commemorate special occasions like weddings (at one point I was in some demand as a wedding poet!), birthdays, graduations, etc. These are, obviously, not literary efforts. They talk about the specific people present and tend to be funny and are usually quite crowd-pleasing! I wish more people would put poetry to such less-serious uses and stop trying to be so damn profound!

    Bio:
    Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, Abbas has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering & computer science from Johns Hopkins University, and a graduate degree in philosophy from Columbia University. He lives with his wife, Margit Oberrauch, and their feline friend, Frederica Krueger, in the small, very beautiful city of Brixen in the Italian Alps. 
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    Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
    Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.

    Entries

    Blogroll

    Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés – Hannah Stephenson

    — a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim



    Hannah Stephenson


    1. What is your favorite poem that you’ve written? Read?

    Maybe other poets will agree with me about their own work—my favorite of my own changes often. Recently, I’ve been happy with “Fraction” (because it was inspired by a tweet from Jimmy Kimmel!). When I read my work aloud, I like to read some of the longer, weirder ones (for instance, there is one called “Suddenly, Pasta Salad”). My favorite poem of all-time is Robert Creeley’s “The Language. 

    2. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?

    I am definitely writing TO someone (not sure if that is the same thing as FOR someone). I am always speaking to my reader. Blogging my poems has helped me locate my reader. I don’t mean this literally, necessarily. But I do mean that I imagine sitting across a small table with someone, speaking to them pretty intensely and closely. That person is always shifting. Sometimes they are blurry, a collage of a few people (I think of how faces look blurred out on TV to protect identities), but sometimes they are clear. I am writing because I have something to say to my reader. And I really care about them/you.

    3. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?

    I am a firm believer in making my own inspiration happen. And most of the time, inspiration is tough work! Moments of magical and sparkly inspiration occur very rarely (but they do happen). It’s because of the work that we can be ready for them. A beautiful moment of clarity can happen to us, so we better keep our beautiful-moment-of-clarity-muscles limber. 

    4. Do you ever include the works of others in your readings? If not, why not? If so, who and why?

    Oh, yes! I absolutely love reading work by other writers. Recently, I’ve shared works by Carol Ann Duffy, Zachary Schomburg, and Bob Hicok. It’s so fun to be able to focus on sharing the words of others. I like opening readings with poems by others because it clearly defines the purpose of the reading—we’re here to take delight in words!—and it can remove some of the anxiety and self-consciousness we sometimes feel while reading. 

    5. How has the way you write changed (or not changed) over time?

    I found some poems I wrote when I was 16. They are embarrassing, but I still see pieces of myself in them. At that age, I would describe my voice as GIDDY-OVERJOYED-THE-WORLD-IS-WONDERFUL!!! When I wrote poems six or seven years ago, or even at the beginning of The Storialist (in 2008), my voice sounds tentative and unfocused (but excited because I’d realized poems didn’t have to be about me). I remember asking myself, “Is this a poem? How do I know if it’s a poem?” Now, my voice sounds much stronger in my head, and I give myself permission to write whatever I’d like, however I’d like. It’s my poem, and I’ll write how I want to (you know, like that Lesley Gore song!). Now, my poems are sprinkled up and down the giddiness spectrum (with ENTHUSIASTIC RAPTURE! on one end, and ONE DAY THE WORLD WILL END, AND THAT IS OK on the other.). 

    6. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

    Endless coffee. And a Luna bar (I teach an 8 AM class…no time to be fancy during the week). But on the weekend, an omelet with tomato, mushroom, spinach, and cheddar cheese. And many baked goods have distinctly breakfast-like qualities (if there’s oatmeal in it, or cinnamon, or bananas, or berries, or if it can be dipped in coffee) that allow me to think of them as wholesome breakfast options. 



    Bio:

    Hannah Stephenson is a poet, editor, instructor, and singer-songwriter living in Columbus, Ohio. Hannah earned her M.A. in English from The Ohio State University in 2006, and her poems have appeared recently in places like Contrary, MAYDAY, qarrtsiluni, Huffington Post, The Nervous Breakdown, and Fiddleblack. She is the founder of Paging Columbus!, a literary arts monthly event series. You can visit her daily poetry site, The Storialist, at www.thestorialist.com or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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    Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
    Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.

    Entries

    Blogroll

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