IN HER OWN VOICE
What writing habits or rituals have you developed, if any?
Each year I attend silent writing retreats in Big Sur—it’s a crucial way I fill the well. The silence and solitude are essential for me. I’m a very, very slow writer. Learning to trust the process is something I struggle with daily. A method of note taking is always with me. Pen and paper in coat pockets, purses, the car, voice memos to myself on the iPhone, hospital paper towels…
How do you go about beginning a poem draft? What inspires you to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard?
Threads, images, snippets emerge, from where I don’t know—just grateful they do. I collect scraps of paper, notes I’ve made by the bedside/shower/car/walk—knots I want to loosen or untie, then sitting down at the desk and beginning, always in longhand. Or sitting down at my desk and seeing what comes up.
Do you find any value in keeping the revision drafts of poems you have written?
Absolutely. Those drafts are the poem’s memory, and it may need to retrieve something from it. As time goes on, poems can expand or shrink but they also should be able to look back. I’m a big believer in salvaging what no longer fits in one poem and placing it in my notebook called “Orphan Lines”—nothing is wasted.
Do you have other interests, artistic or otherwise, that inspire your poetry making? Reading widely, daily—music, painting, nature, films, walking, gardening, photography, the Pacific, the stars, coffee, whiskey, and candlelight. Being open, curious.
Is there any poet, living or dead, you would like to go for a walk with? Have a conversation with? Why?
Four-way tie between Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Joanna Klink, Mark Strand, and Pablo Neruda—to give thanks.
Are you ever afraid of writing a poem? If so, how do you address that?
All the poems I was fearful of writing were the ones I knew I needed to write, and they made the most noise, utterly insistent. “Threshold II” was one of those poems.
Any advice to new writers or writers trying to get their poems published.
Know your work and start reading journals (print and online) where you think there is a good fit and where you would be thrilled to see your work. Check the “Acknowledgements” section in favorite poetry books to see where the poems have been published. Make sure the poems you send are really ready. Follow submission guidelines to the letter. Keep excellent records. There will be long strings of dark days—keep moving forward and learn to write through rejection.
Anything else you would like to share about your writing life?
I protect my writing and well-filling time, fiercely. It’s as essential to my self-care as getting enough sleep. I do love how insular writing is, but it’s important to have support—either from other poets or from family. I’m incredibly lucky to have very strong, life-saving scaffoldings from both.