Apr 14, 2014

T.R. HUMMER--My Writing Process--Blog Tour

Thanks to poet David Baker for inviting me to participate in the writing process blog tour.  You can see his own response here.

1.       What am I working on?

I’m finishing up a trilogy of books of poetry (though my publisher refuses to acknowledge it is a trilogy, and will not even discuss the matter seriously: but I’m not letting that stop me). The first book is out; the second is forthcoming this year; the third is almost complete. After that I will assemble a New and Selected Poems. Meanwhile, I have a variety of prose projects under way. I always have a variety of prose projects under way. It is a cold day in hell when any of them comes to anything, but I persist. It keeps me off the street.

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

This is a question that ought never to be asked, much less answered. It is in the category of metaphysical questions such as Why is there something rather than nothing and Why does god permit evil? However, since you ask (or, to take the question at face value, since I ask) I will say that my poems differ from other poems because I think of the consciousness projected by poems, their sentience, in a way that is unique to me (and so does every other poet who is any good). It is neither, fundamentally, a matter of subject or of style, but of sentience.

3.       Why do I write what I do?

Because if I wrote something else, I would be writing something else, and then that would be what I wrote. As it is, I write this. If I could think of something else to write, believe me, I would write it. And in fact I will think of something else to write, and I will write it, every day of my life until I can no longer do it. When that happens, I will write something else.

4.       How does your writing process work?

Not very well (see my answer re prose projects in progress at the end of question one).

Process is a fascinating subject: it is never the same twice. It cannot be taught, or learned, it can only be done. Technique can be taught; process, never. I write poems in clusters, hoping they are in some sense individually as well as collectively coherent (like postal employees). Hence books come about. When the clusters reach a certain critical mass they begin to make demands (like postal employees) and also to malinger (ditto).  I whip them into shape; they bring me strange messages and deposit them in my mailbox. As to prose, it is endless and unfinishable. 

                                                                                          --T.R. Hummer

T.R. Hummer is a native of Mississippi. He earned his BA and MA from the University of Southern Mississippi and the Center for Writers and his PhD in 1980 from the University of Utah. He has served as editor of The Kenyon Review and The Georgia Review, among others, and is a professor of English at Arizona State University.
His publications include the poetry collections Ephemeron (LSU Press, 2011), which won the 2012 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Poetry, The Infinity Sessions (LSU Press, 2005), Useless Virtues (LSU, 2001), Walt Whitman in Hell (LSU, 1996), The Angelic Orders (LSU, 1982), and The Passion of the Right–Angled Man (University of Illinois Press, 1984). He is also the author of two collections of essays, most recently Available Surfaces (The University of Michigan Press, 2012), which was a selection of the Poets on Poetry series.
Among his honors are a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship and an NEA Fellowship. Hummer has played saxophone in the Skinner Brothers Band and the Richmond-based jump blues band Little Ronnie and the Grand Dukes (Young and Evil, Planetary Records, 2001).

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