A few weeks ago, I was invited to take part in this blog tagging tour by poet, reviewer and genuinely lovely person, Maria Taylor. You can read her blog here and details of her wonderful debut poetry collection, Melanchrini, here.
I am just as fascinated by how other writers approach their work as I am by the paths that poems take, from first sparks to polished pieces. I hope you enjoy reading my responses to the blog tour questions. Here goes:
1) What am I working on?
I’m currently putting together my debut poetry pamphlet, which will be published by Soundswrite Press this autumn – exciting and slightly scary, now it’s this year! The story so far: chaotic and uncharted sessions at the dining room table assembling, sifting and reassembling piles of poems from a sea of paper, a general concept, a working title, likely poems and a suggested order, almost-certain opening and final poems and my editor’s first response (generally positive and encouraging, so assume I’m on the right track, at least – phew). There’s a way to go but I’m getting so much out of the process and really looking forward to a close working relationship with my editor as well the tangible end product, the launch and all that might follow.
I’ve written quite a few new poems, lately – not with a specific end in mind at this stage, other than submitting them to various paper and online magazines and journals. And I’ve even produced a super-improved submissions tracker in an attempt to be a bit more systematic and far less sporadic in getting stuff ‘out there.’
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That’s a less straightforward question… I hope that by reading as much good poetry as I possibly can that it both informs and develops my own writing. I like to think that my ‘voice’ (or voices plural) is (are) continually evolving. The titles of my poems often belie their subject matter, their content hinting at something darker. I really admire the work of poets such as Helen Ivory who are not afraid to explore dark subject matter through their writing. Her collection Waiting for Bluebeard had a profound effect on me from my cover-to-cover first reading last year. It’s one I keep returning to. Jennifer Copley is another such poet. I read Beans in Snow and Living Daylights last year. Her latest collection, Sisters, is on my (growing) To Buy list.
Themes I’m currently exploring are control/possession/containment and licence/assumed consent. These are poems that I haven’t set out to write but ask to be written.
I often mine the rich seam of memory but rarely do I write a poem that is totally ‘true.’ They are almost always a distillation of self, memory/experience and invention viewed through a lens of some kind. I hope I allow the reader freedom to take from my poems what they will, to view them through their own lens.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write because I have to. It’s a compulsion, and one that fulfils me. And even if some Superior Being told me I’d never get another poem published, I’d still write (although I sometimes fear that I might never write another poem worth sharing). Having said all that, I enjoy the intrinsic reward of the occasional endorsement by a magazine/journal editor, that feeling when a poem has ‘gone to a good home,’ that it will have a wider audience.
I write poetry, as opposed to prose, because (rare) attempts to write in any other way always end up as poems. I think I tend to read everything with a poet’s eyes and ears: I love the poetry in the novels of Roma Tearne, Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie and Virginia Woolf, for instance.
I write the poems I do because they ask to be written, even if they bare little or no resemblance to the original idea.
4) How does your writing process work?
This is the point at which I must ‘fess up to my generally ill-disciplined practice as a writer. There are several reasons why I fail to maintain a daily habit of generating ‘new writing’: I’m not a morning person, life and other ‘stuff’ gets in the way and any number of other reasons including opening that Works in Progress sub folder and the never-ending cycle of destruction and reconstruction that is re-drafting. I do like to attend writing workshops to kickstart new writing and explore different ways of getting into a poem. If it’s been a ‘good day’, I’ll come away with several embryonic poems, sometimes just an idea/a phrase/a string of words. Just being in the same room as other writers sometimes helps. And it’s a change from a largely solitary practice.
I do have a growing stack of notebooks but have yet to devise a system whereby I can easily access particular entries. These are filled with just that – notes, or ideas, a word, a phrase, something heard or ‘found.’ I tend to type poems on the PC or laptop as soon as I can – it’s not only easier to move around, delete and substitute words/lines/stanzas but I can play with line breaks and the shape of the poem on the page. My Writing folder has many sub folders, including Unfinished and Dubious, but you never know when something might be salvageable or recycled.
I’m sometimes inspired by an image or an artwork. I’m particularly drawn to sculpture, viewing it from different angles, looking through its holes and gaps, the tactile experience (if touching is permitted). I love texture and colour in all things, including food. Sounds also inspire my writing and a large part of the re-drafting process, for me, is focused on the sound and rhythm. My poems are as much for the ear as for the eye, which is why reading at open mic events and the occasional guest reading is so important to me.
I’ll now introduce the three writers I’ve chosen to carry on the blog tour with their own My Writing Process posts on Monday 24th February:
Robin Houghton’s poetry has appeared in many UK magazines and her first pamphlet is out in the Spring. She’s also a business writer with hundreds of articles, websites and blog posts to her name. Her first book, Blogging for Creatives, was published by Ilex/F&W in 2012 and she has just been commissioned to write a follow-up, Blogging for Writers. Check out her blog: http://www.poetgal.co.uk
Siobhan Logan is a Leicester poet with two collections published by Original Plus Press: Firebridge to Skyshore: A Northern Lights’ Journey and Mad, Hopeless and Possible: Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition. Her work has been performed at the British Science Musuem, the National Space Centre and the British Science Festival. She blogs at: http://siobhanlogan.blogspot.co.uk/
Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson: in a former life – a fashion designer obsessed with literature. Now a writer – unable to completely ignore that former life. Writing short stories, poems and always considering ‘The Novel’. Current projects include a series of sonnets about clothes. (and life, and love) called DressCode, and a linked novel-length collection of short stories. Lindsay’s web link: http://poemstorydreamreality.com/about/