Thanks to Rochelle Hurt for inviting me to participate in the wonderful chain-letter Internet crisscross blog tour about our writing processes.
Rochelle is the author of The Rusted City (White Pine, 2014). Her work has been included in Best New Poets 2013, and she has been awarded literary prizes from Crab Orchard Review, Arts & Letters, Hunger Mountain, and Poetry International. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have also been published in journals like Mid-American Review, Cincinnati Review, The Southeast Review, The Kenyon Review Online, and Image.
Here are my answers to the tour’s questions:
1) What are you working on?
I finished my second-book manuscript a few months ago, so I’m in that tentative stage of working on new poems, without a formal project yet. So far, the common link is tragedy and the ways we either ogle at it or look away from it because we can’t stand to see it. I’ve been noticing lately that my desensitization to violence is showing signs of strain, and I’m curious about why. It’s hard to say more about the new poems other than that, but I’ll add that I’m also working on a series based on the Luminous Mysteries, a set of meditations that Catholics use while saying the Rosary.
2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
This is the toughest question because it requires a stronger sense of ego than I’m used to displaying. So much of the writing life is about finding a balance in the ego, in being able to withstand the numerous rejections and still have enough confidence to keep submitting, but also in avoiding excessive amounts of pride or vainglory.
That said, my poetry differs from others in that it often incorporates elements of sound (internal rhyme, assonance) without necessarily being formal, that it considers both literary texts from the past and contemporary lived life, and that it both interrogates and buys into the use of the lyric address (I’ll add that I know other poets doing each of these things, though not perhaps all together).
3) Why do you write what you do?
Because I can’t write other things. I can’t write a novel at this point in my life (but when I was in sixth grade, I did)! I can’t do plays either (though they were my dominant genre in high school). I’d love to be able to write long meditative narratives like Stephen Dunn or C. K. Williams, but I’ll settle for my little lyrics. I’ve made it sound like a process of elimination, but it’s an active choice, or rather, poetry is what comes to me.
4) How does your writing process work?
I first have to have the germ of an idea; I let it marinate (to mix the metaphor) for a little while; I sit down in a comfortable chair that I use only for reading and writing poetry; I read other poems to fill my well; I write a version in longhand in a notebook; I let that sit and perhaps revise it longhand a few days later; I revise it again as I convert the poem to a Word document; I ask people I trust for their opinions on the poem; I revise again. Repeat as necessary.
Look forward next week to these fabulous writers:
Jose Angel Araguz, author of the chapbook The Wall (Tiger’s Eye Press), is a Canto Mundo fellow. Hailing from Corpus Christi, Texas, he has had poems recently in Cactus Heart, Prick of the Spindle, RHINO, Hanging Loose and Poet Lore. He is presently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati. His latest chapbook,Corpus Christi Octaves, is forthcoming from Flutter Press
Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of Errata (SIU Press, forthcoming 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing (BLP, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Her poems have been awarded a fellowship from the NEA, scholarships to the Sewanee and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences, an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize, and have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Best of the Net 2013, and Best New Poets 2010.
Manuel Iris is the author of Cuaderno de los sueños (2009) and Versos robados y otros juegos (2003, 2nd ed. 2005). Iris won the 2009 Mérida National Poetry Award and second place in the 2003 Rosario Castellanos National Poetry Award. He is now a doctoral candidate in the Romance Languages Department of the University of Cincinnati.