Monday, February 24, 2014

The Creative Process - The Writing Process - Blog Tour of Writers, 2014

The lovely and talented Kelli Russell Agodon invited me to be part of this blog tour which is focusing on writers in all different genres.  You can read the answers to her four questions right here on her blog, Book of Kells. My favorite part is where Kelli shares how her writing process involves listening to music and that her youtube list gets her "in the mood."

By now you may well know that Kelli Russell Agodon is one of my closest friends and that we have starred in many adventures together including co-founding Poets on the Coast and A Poet At Your Table.  This Friday at 6:30 pm at Taste (restaurant) at the Seattle Art Museum our books will both launch at the White Pine Press reception -- open to all.

Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Hourglass Museum and The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, which she co-authored with Martha Silano. Her other books include Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, Small Knots, Geography, and Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry which she edited with Annette Spaulding-Convy.

She is the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press and when not writing, Kelli can be found in the Northwest mountain biking, paddleboarding, or walking her golden retriever, Buddy Holly.

She blogs at: <> or you can connect with her on Facebook: <> or on her homepage: <>

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And here we go: my four questions and answers

1. What am I working on?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m working on breathing. 

My fourth book of poems, Cloud Pharmacy was released this month and I’m still looking at it as if it’s a phantom. Did my poems really find a physical home?

Here’s a tip I use for trying to counteract the sense of unreality that accompanies a new book. Each time I have published a book and the first box of copies comes to the house, I place one in the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the living room in order to convince myself that my book is real. At the moment, I am working on taking the kitchen copy off the counter before the coffee stains appear.

Okay — I know that’s not what this question intends. I’ve also been working on new poems. I’m really needing to devote myself more to poetry. Recently, I’ve received a big reminder from the universe that life is finite. I’ve always been a slow writer and I don’t know that I can change that. What I can make an effort to change is the amount of time I give to my own writing; yes, this is what I’m working on.

In terms of the next book, it’s a little soon to tell. However, my obsession with photography seems to continue on but with a new twist; this time with a bit of an international focus. As with any new project, there’s little more I can say so early on.

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

On a walk in Port Townsend, Washington the poet Sharon Bryan once told me that no one else could write our poems. If we don’t write them, it will be too late. So my life experiences of living on three different continents, my obsession with 19th century women photographers, and my own quiet character fold into my poems in odd juxtaposition.

Add to this mix my lifelong love of Elizabeth Bishop’s Geography III and the work takes on a certain shape. Include a dash of more recent loves: Deborah Digges, Rilke, and Seamus Heaney. Finally, my background as an international human rights worker with a focus on Bosnia Herzegovina and Somalia also informs my work. 

More than all this is the fact that I think my work is both complicated and accessible. There are lots of notes on the poems tucked in the back of Cloud Pharmacy and I am also working on a Reader's Guide. I want my poems to expand out far beyond the little world I live into a larger and more nuanced universal and political geography.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Every once in awhile I try another genre: travel literature, memoir, or even history. I’ve written articles on the history of train travel in the Pacific Northwest for the Oregon Quarterly and about the early photographer Myra Albert Wiggins (1864-1953).

Myra Albert Wiggins

I have published articles on South Africa and Bosnia Herzegovina, and edited a book of essays on poets living overseas The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders which is available for download here but nothing satisfies me like poetry.

I can't really feel good about myself until I've written a poem that I can savor a little. It's both a physical and mental condition

4. How does your writing process work?

I am happiest writing when there is an open day, week, or month to climb into. However, my life allows for that kind of time much less these days. Instead, I try to write when I teach private workshops or in the morning for even half an hour before I go to work. During winter break, I’ve taken to disappearing to one of the islands off of Washington State.

But that’s more a sense of place than process. How do I get in the mood? Often I need to fool myself and say: just take a quick look at the draft of a poem sitting on the bedside table or on the desk. I keep versions of my poems on clipboards and move between hand written work and printing out new drafts. If I'm lucky, I wander out to my converted one car garage behind my house and spend some time sitting at an old tiki bar and writing by a window that looks out to a small garden.

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I'll be back soon with the next two people that will join this blog tour. Stay tuned :-)

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