April 29, 2014

The Tour

Jan Bickerton, courtesy Red Edge Images

It may be nearly the end of April, but it's not too late to make a stop on the Blog Tour. This part of the tour comes via Steve McOrmond, who talks about poetry and process on his excellent blog here. Thanks, Steve, for inviting me on board. Take the tour by clicking on the links you find in this and the other Blog Tour posts.

And now, I answer the questions:

What am I working on?
Clearing space and time to write, as usual. Circling. A long thing, some short things. Maybe they're the same thing. Maybe they're not really things. Attending to morning light and a construction crane.

How does my work differ from other work in its genre?
I'm often surprised by what people say they recognize as SusanGillisness in my poems. I sometimes wish I had a clearer sense of that myself. But if I did, I'd probably break my head trying to get free of it.

I like getting inside moments, inside shifts in time or event or light, and seeing how they happen. I don't know if my poems report on those findings, exactly, but what I find there is partly where the poems come from.

Why do I write what I do?
As a child I used to put myself to sleep every night by adding to a town I was building in my imagination. It had houses with lawns, sidewalks, streets, corner stores, people, animals, trees, litter, skipping ropes, bikes, sunlight, dusk, streetlamps. The houses had rooms with furniture, paint, wallpaper, cushions, teacups, appliances, people, pyjamas, windows, colour schemes, renovation projects. Then I switched to waking up, and language.

How does my writing process work?
Sometimes really well! Sometimes not so great. My process involves a lot of staring. I'm quite a fan of losing myself, losing track of the edges between my self and my physical surroundings, finding that flow state some people describe as expansive--focused, yet permeable--which I've always thought of as getting small, as in, molecular. My process involves a lot of whatever gets me to that state, or at least walks me down the path to its gate.

Devoting the morning's first hour to staring out the window from my bed, or walking out into very cold or very warm air, or writing down my dreams, or reading, or sitting with my beloved chattering like birds, or silence, or music.

I write on paper, in a bound unlined notebook, writing out everything, including things like "Is this really where I want to go here?" and "Boring, move on" and "I want some tension here--more tension!" and "What is it that's nagging at me, no, really?" for a long time, hours or days or weeks, nudging and pressing and courting and tending, until something coheres. At that point I move from paper to the computer and start typing. That's when everything that isn't the poem starts to get filtered out. I have to be careful not to make that move too early in the development. But if I leave it too long, it grows into a monster! And then I have to go all snicker-snack on it, which is really too heroic for me and my gentle nature.


Next up on the Blog Tour:

Anita Lahey, poet, blogger at Henrietta & Me, and author of most recently The Mystery Shopping Cart: Essays on Poetry and Culture

Lucas Klein, writer, editor, translator and blogger at Notes on the Mosquito

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