My Writing Process – Blog Tour

Robin Houghton recently  invited me to take part in a blog tour where each of us answer the same 4 questions about our writing process and then invite other writers to do the same. Robin posted her answers at her Poetgal  blog last Monday (March 3)

Now it’s my turn.

Please note: The three people I’ve invited to follow me on the tour are Issy Clarke, Becky Gethin and rob mclennan.  Find out more about these writers and where to find their blogs at the bottom of my post.

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The 4 Questions:

1) What am I working on?

My first poetry chapbook – The Invisible Girl – was published last November by Doire Press  after winning their 2nd Annual International Poetry Chapbook Competition. Lisa & John at Doire Press were wonderful to work with, and the experience has been a major milestone in my life. I’m currently in the midst of getting the word out about T.I.G., including posts (poems, interviews, reviews) at: Becky Gethin’s web site  ,  Abi Morley’s The Poetry Shed and my Goodreads author’s page.

T.I.G. is available to order directly from me.

Most recently, I have a poem in the soon-to-be-available pamphlet Book of Sand; art from poetry – poetry from art, edited & published by Karen Dennison. This is a project that I’m excited and proud to be part of:

Back cover text:
“An alternating sequence of poetry and visual art, where poems inspire art and art inspires poetry. This pamphlet showcases the work of six poets and five artists.”

Quote from Tammy:
“A unique meeting of visionary poets and artists, who enter into a dialogue that at once informs and heightens their individual works. This small collection is a joy, and once again confirms that we need both the visual and the verbal to understand the world as a whole.” — Tamar Yoseloff  

I’m not sure what the future holds as far as my writing is concerned; I just know that I want to keep writing. I’ve been scanning old family photos over the winter, and would like to try using some of that material as starting points for new poems. Down below in the rest of my post, I’ve added five photos from the old family family – CLICK ON EACH THUMBNAIL and the past will enlarge!

blog_0001

I’d also love to do more collaborative work with other writers and artists, and keep experimenting with different poetry forms & techniques. So in other words…I’ll just keep writing…. and see what happens.

I recently joined the PEI Writers Guild and hope to get more involved with local activities.  The first Charlottetown event I went to was a February workshop with ecologist & writer Don Grayton . He’s got me thinking more about what “Nature Writing” in the 21st Century means. And what perhaps it might help achieve. But I might ramble on about that more in another blog post.

long ago cows

There’s a new Legacy Gardens project getting underway in Charlottetown and I’m signing up to participate in the community gardens.  I’m betting there’ll be stories and poems come out of the experience – as well as a few vegetables.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m annoyed because I can’t remember where exactly I’ve read it  (maybe I’ve read different versions of it  but it makes sense to me ) if we take the writing of poems seriously, then what we write will be something that only we ourselves (and nobody else) could have written about, in that certain way. So I keep that in mind… how can I contribute something that is up to only me to contribute, because only I can write it. It’s like a responsibility, or an awareness of the unique gifts and awareness  that each of us have been given.

me with special cat

I’ve observed in my own life that major changes seem to happen every 7 years or so – changes in employment, where one lives, the people and the non-human animals one spends the most time with and so forth… The publication of my first book TIG happened about 7 years after I started writing poems. And now, it feels like I’m entering some new phase, but I don’t know what it will be.

I found a copy of A Reader’s Guide to T.S. Eliot: A Poem-By-Poem Analysis by George Williamson at a used book sale and bought it for 50 cents. Here’s something Eliot said which helps me feel better about the betwixt-between feeling I’m feeling now, after the publication of The Invisible Girl.

The poet’s progress is dual. There is the gradual accumulation of experience, like a tantalus jar: it may be only once in five to 10 years that experience accumulates to form a new whole and find its appropriate expression. But if a poet were content to attempt nothing less than always his best, if he insisted on waiting for these unpredictable crystallizations, he would probably not be ready for them when they came. The development of experience is largely unconscious, subterranean, so that we cannot gauge its progress except once in every 5 to 10 years; but in the meantime the poet must be working; he must be experimenting and trying his techniques so that it will be ready, like a well-oiled fire-engine, when the moment comes to strain it to its utmost.

3) Why do I write what I do?

The year I got serious about writing poems, I remember going to my local library and reading  Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town. Last year, I decided to buy my own copy and re-read it. These excerpts below (which I’ve snatched from Goodreads ) may give some sense of at least some of the reasons I write poetry.  Or they may not. It’s probably better to read the whole book 🙂

“I caution against communication because once language exist only to convey information, it is dying. In news articles the relation of the words to the subject is a strong one. The relation of the words to the writer is weak. (Since the majority of your reading has been newspapers, you are used to seeing language function this way).

When you write a poem these relations must reverse themselves: The relation of the word to the subject must weaken – the relation of the words to the writer (you) must take on strength. This is probably the hardest thing about writing poems

In a poem you make something up, say for example a town, but an imagined town is at least as real as an actual town. If it isn’t you may be in the wrong business. Our triggering subjects, like our words, come from obsessions we must submit to, whatever the social cost. It can be hard. It can be worse 40 years from now if you feel you could have done it and didn’t.

old house
Public versus private poets:

With public poets the intellectual and emotional contents of the words are the same for the reader as for the writer. With the private poet, the words, at least certain key words, mean something to the poet they don’t mean to the reader. A sensitive reader perceives this relation of poet to word and in a way that relation – the strange way the poet emotionally possesses his vocabulary – is one of the mysteries and preservative forces of the art.

If you are a private poet, then your vocabulary is limited by your obsessions. In fact, most poets write the same poem over and over. (Wallace Stevens was honest enough not to try to hide it. Frost’s statement that he tried to make every poem as different as possible from the last one is a way of saying that he knew it couldn’t be).”

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4) How does your writing process work?

My online writer-friends are important to me – providing companionship, conversation, ideas, fun and feedback.  Bill Greenwell’s Exeter Univ. on-line clinics have been invaluable, and I’ve participated in many on-line Poetry School Courses and it’s a community I’d recommend.  I make frequent use of writing prompts to “get me going”, for example – Poets & Writers , Poets Online, and 52.  I read, go for walks, talk to my cat, gather up thoughts & experiences and mix them together. And keep at it.

the train

I have invited  the following three people to participate in the blog tour. Please visit their blogs and watch for their answers to the Four Questions, which they will be posting next Monday, March 10 .

#1 Issy Clarke

Issy Clarke is a journalist who writes about soccer for money and about horses and psychology for kicks. Talking of kicks, a bad accident in the summer of 2012 , which led to hospitalisation and prolonged convalescence, changed not just how her face looks but the way she faces life and its ups and downs. One of the downs is that she lives in Northampton, England; one of the ups is that she shares her days with a whole host of non human animals. She blogs at The Spoken Horse.

#2 Becky Gethin

Rebecca Gethin has lived on Dartmoor for 30 years. Cinnamon Press published her second poetry collection, A Handful of Water, in 2013 and Oversteps Books published her first, River is the Plural of Rain, in 2009.  Her second novel, What the horses heard, is to be published in May. She is a gardener and runs writing workshops in Devon, having been a teacher in various situations all of her working life, including a prison. She blogs here.

#3 rob mclennan

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles include notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014) and The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014), as well as the forthcoming poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks, 2014).

An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garnea Review (ottawater.com/ garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/ seventeenseconds) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com

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10 comments

  1. Hi Elly, thanks for such a detailed account of your writing life…. and I think I need to get hold of a copy of that reader’s guide to T S Eliot, he’s one of my blind spots and I’d like to correct that.

    • Thanks, Abi. Your support is always appreciated. And I was inspired by your post this week at your site – The Poetry Shed – also as part of the blog tour. It’s another way for us all to get to know each other better. And that’s a good thing 🙂 All the best with your Sensing Spaces event at the RA this Friday – wish I could be there!

    • Dear Becky – I’m so pleased you accepted my invitation. I expect that one thing you will be posting about will be your new novel – which I want the World to hear about & get ready for 😀 , so I look forward to next week…

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