Jun 16, 2014

NICOLAE COANDE--My Writing Process--Blog Tour

Many thanks to poet Page Hill Starzinger for inviting me to the Writing Process blog tour.  You can read her own response here.

1.      What am I working on?

I am working on a poetry book that I hope will be published in 2015, and its first verse is the motor of the entire book; perhaps it will even become its title: “They didn’t let me rule the world”. I know, without emphasis, what the last verse of the book will be as well – “I don’t know how to tell stories”, even though I have got a few stories caught there in the book. However, as Mircea Ivănescu said in one of his early poems, where he was also quoting a maestro: “you don’t have to narrate in poetry…/ poetry mustn’t be a representation, a series of images…” Indeed, we should leave this to the novelists and journalists. Still, what does a poet do in poetry? Alchemy, of course. I am also being haunted by an essay book, half written, about... God. I realize the three suspension points before the “main subject” can seem frivolous, but they are rather about my hesitation before a book of this kind. In recent years, I have read multiple books and essays about the returning of the religious, especially in the West – because in the East, it is just the people who are leaving, not God -, and after I have meditated over them, I believe I could contour a booklet with Alfred N. Whitehead’s formula, about “God, poet and protector of the world.” The fact that God is a Poet gives me an indescribable state, which I also explain through the fact that I am a poet – yet when I awake from my reverie I realize it is not exactly the same thing. God has infinitely greater responsibilities than a miserable poet faced with the world they are making and rewriting incessantly. That being said, He is a long term Author, and His Critic is not yet born. This is what I should talk about and don’t know how to without becoming another one beating about the bush in the Elysian Fields.

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

Through “signature”. But who can say that a simple signature can differentiate you as an unmistakable mark, or footprint? The question forces me to a kind of self-analysis that an author is continuously aware of, except now I must do it expresis verbis. I write with a feeling that the olden ones remarked, undoubtedly better than me, “wholly thrown over his prey”, except this “prey” must be maintained alive – it feeds me and, I hope, the random reader of my books. In general, my poetry books have been received by the critics in the tonality given by a certain furor of expression, a poetry with “maximum existential stakes”. To quote a Romanian poet, Romulus Bucur, who wrote about some of my books, when reading my poetry you could detach a few “hard notions: the impossibility of indifference, lucidity, the inadequacy between him (the poet) and the world, hence the proudly assumed marginality”. Well, I subscribe to this taxonomy of a poet who has read well in the heart of my poetry, but I would also add something I believe about what I write: the beauty I work at – each poet owes it to discover a new beauty – is crossed by that “caritas” to which I aspire in all my literature. I deny everything because I embrace everything. I hope there are a minimal authenticity and innovation in my poetry, otherwise I am just another Pierre Ménard writing endlessly about Don Quijote.

3.      Why do I write what I do?

Probably thanks to a genetic footprint, which I continuously reformulate in the alternative exercise of writing. What did people look like when writing hadn’t been invented? Thoth knows. When I watch the “Game of Thrones” series, I notice that, despite the continuous slaughter, people have discovered writing. I wonder what’s the use? How does it look today, when the great majority of people doesn’t write and doesn’t even want to hear about writing? Only they know. I know that I need to write, even though I don’t make it the cause of my life. Life has a single cause, which is life itself. You can live without writing, but not without oxygen. Life, however, in all its splendid indifference, needs literature in order to be refined in the infinite polyphonic discourse of the human voice. The voice, this is what was man’s gift among speechless beings. I don’t write as I breathe, but I breathe as I write (with a septum deviation). I believe there is a genetic mark in every author, which has been trained of course, by his/her education and what they've read, as well as by their part as a unique observer in the world. To use an Ancient expression, there exist “words of power”. Sure, the initiated will laugh in my face: you’re not Solomon to know the secret name of God! But I don’t want that; all I know as an initiate in my own writing is that I can discover my true name, and with it, the name of the world we live in. The secret name of God can remain hidden forever – or just in the care of those preoccupied with occult sciences. Poetry must be for all, even if we are not all for poetry.

4.      How does your writing process work?

Writing, decantation, simplification. I write after I don’t think anymore. {Like Milton said, “after the Muse visits me and inspires unthought-of verses”}. After that, I think with the unencumbered freedom of that whom has nothing to do anymore and remembers the alphabet again: in principio erat Verbum.

Nicolae Coande

(Translated from the Romanian by Lia Boangiu)

Nicolae Coande (born 1962 in Osica de Sus, Romania) has published eight collections of poetry in Romanian: On the Edge (1995); Fincler (1997); The Dead-End Road Named Homer (2002); Folfa (2003); Wind, Tobacco & Alcohol (2008); The Woman that I Write About (2010); VorbaIago (2012; Persona (2013). He has also published four collections of essays, the most recent of which is Romanian Intellectuals and the King's Court (2011). He has received several awards for his poetry from the Writers' Union of Romania. His work has been included in the anthologies Gefährliche Serpentinen – Rumänische Lyrik der Gegenwart (Druckhaus Verlag, Berlin, 1998), edited by Dieter Schlesak; Of Gentle Wolves (Calypso Editions, New York, 2011), translated and edited by Martin Woodside; The Vanishing Point that Whistles (Talisman Press, USA, 2011), edited by Paul-Doru Mugur, Adam Sorkin, and Claudia Serea.

Jun 8, 2014

John Martínez Gonzales--My Writing Process--Blog Tour

Many thanks Zachary Payne for inviting me to the writing process blog tour.  You can read his own response here.

1) What am I working on?
I’m working on two books of poetry. The first one entitled: Lar, where the basic concepts of home are present but have been placed in others settings with other feelings. The poems explore the relationship between friends and the way we have been positioned in the middle of ubiquity that the poem gives. The place where one lives is the poem and that home is a state of mind or state of heart.

The second book is called ‘A
cardiovascular muscle that pumps blood’, a book which contains poems dedicated to detachment and loves lost and found again and lost again many times.

At the same time I am working on a script for my third video poem.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t know if it's a difference but I think my writing is always the sign of the spiritual search. I think poetry is a form of knowledge and the more we sink into it, the more we know. I've never gone to poetry as a form of escape or refuge. My poems are looking at me. They are a thread. When I work I'm interested in many poems, themes in my books. I'm interested in the text within the text.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I write because I don´t have another bridge or support to explore myself. Because writing for me is to recognize oneself. To Find-to be.

I write about me trying to find the past and the truth about the story of world. I feel that the biography of the planet can be in a poem and there is no general formulas, but there are unique ways that we should never ignore.

4) How does your writing process work?

I usually write on paper because I have still believe in the legend of the forests. I like the feel and ink as I write. I almost never write having a clear what to do. At the time of writing I let myself be guided. This allows me to "discover" many records that I have forgotten and also makes the time of transcription a time of correction. Once I have printed these texts and have left them forgotten a time, I return to them later and see if the music still works. I try not to pressure myself. I'm more interested in writing than in what comes after…

Lena Marice Orduña (Cuzco - Perú)
Studied Economics at the Andean University of Cusco, but dedicated her life to poetry without compassion. Among her influences we can find beatnik literature, psychedelic rock, and writers such as Walt Whitman, Ernesto Carrion and Luis Hernández.Her first publication was in the women's anthology "Eghos" (2005) and later published the plaquet "Out of Tune" edited by "Laparcalestial" (2007).  She also published plaquets independently as "Jimmy Jazz" (2010) and "Seas" (2011), she participated in the Poetry Festival of the South Andean "January in the Word" in the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. She participated in the "Caravan Literary" a poetic caravan organized by the Ministry of Culture, because of that she was a part of the anthology "Treaty on Blank Page" (2012). In 2013 she published a subversive plaquett to love called "Ave Porco" by NN Publishers. She also participated in the IV Festival of Poetry of Lima (October - 2013) and recently organized the eighteenth edition of the most important festival of poetry in the south Andean "January in the word" 2014. She is currently working on her next book of poems and manages a page of poetry in Facebook called "Estrangótica".

Agustín Guambo (Quito - Ecuador)
Candidate for Master in Spanish and Latin American Literatures for UBA (Universidad de Buenos Aires). Master in Anthropology from FLACSO. Editorial Director of Murcielagario Kartonera. Participated in Letrarte (Argentina, 2010), Book Fair of Buenos Aires (2014). His texts have appeared in several anthologies and blogs. He is currently living in Buenos Aires.

Jun 2, 2014

DANA LEVIN--Response to Margento WRITING PROCESS Questions

Thanks to poet GC Waldrep for inviting me to participate in the writing process blog tour.  You can read his own response here.

1.  What am I working on?

I’m finishing up my fourth collection of poetry and hope to submit it my editor this summer. I feel mischievous about it: it has never-before-seen-in-Dana-Levin-poems qualities like humor! Poems about my cat! Fruit as a recurring trope! There’s even a Cento about cyborgs crafted almost entirely from snippets from articles in the New York Times and Huffington Post. I’m calling the book Banana Palace. It’s pre-apocalyptic Barnum.

I’m also about to gear up on some essay assignments: one on Jim Morrison (lead singer for that ur-Late Sixties band, The Doors), one on dreams, one that examines the idea of the Via Negativa in post-modern poetries. I think my next big project will be a book of essays on poetry.

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

Oh my. What *is* its genre? My work’s been called confessional, my work’s been called experimental (that one always flummoxes me, in terms of what we tend to deem “experimental poetry”) (is it all the white space??)

Regarding Confessionalism: we seem to have a very reductive idea of it these days, like how my students throw the term around any time they encounter work that feels emotive, disclosive, autobiographical. A couple of years ago I wrote a brief intro gloss to Anne Carson’s great Confessional poem The Glass Essay, a poem (I’m going to quote myself; sue me) “where Confessionalism’s essential gift―self-analysis―was given free rein to get beyond personality (Lady Lazarus! Henry!) and closer to what might be called a sense of soul.” That transformation from self-centeredness to soul-centeredness is how I’d like to think the Confessional has transformed in me.

In terms of being an “experimental” poet: well, aren’t we all?

3.  Why do I write the way I do?

Terms like “confessional” and “experimental” feel reductive to me; they create an easy, but false, polarity. I don’t want to claim allegiance to any one mode – I don’t view modes as beliefs; I view modes as tools. I want to have access to all the tools in the toolbox. In my last book, Sky Burial, and in this new manuscript, the poems seem to want to change up forms all the time: Banana Palace offers prose poems, long sectioned verse meditations, two-line poems that (I hope) move with surprise like Haiku. I have a long poem in fourteen short prose blocks and a long poem in really short, blippy verse sections, with a narrative through-line like a (very odd) Book of Hours. I like to play around, and I’ve become, apparently, increasingly, formally restless.

Perhaps formal restlessness is a solution to the potential monotony of the “project” book, another term I resist (for myself) and find reductive (see next question for more on that). One aspect of my work that never changes is the engagement with a lot of white space and em-dashes as dynamic actors. White space offers a lot of dramatic potential (what makes us pause, what silences us, in relation to all this poetry speaking?) as well as relief on the reading eye and listening ear. Inclusion of pause and silence feels crucial to me. Paradoxically, I often use the em-dash as a line-ending gesture that propels the reader into that white space (like pushing you off a cliff) I suppose that em-dash propulsion into silence and gap makes white space in my poems a thrumming place---a way-station, rather than destination, even when a poem ends on such a gesture. My poems don’t offer a lot of rest.

4.  How does your writing process work?

Something sparks my interest—in the world, in the self, in the soul―and percolates in mind, barely conscious, for a very long time. Then I might write some notes towards it, and then not pursue it in verse for a very long time. I avoid versification for as long as I can (it’s so hard! It takes so much focus! Ugh!) But such resistance brings the poem-to-be to a boil, and then I can’t avoid making art. That moment comes like….an em-dash at the end of a line, throwing me into the generative/frightening white space―
After a while―five, ten, poems in to new writing―I may note that the poems seem to be circling pretty tightly around a constellation of ideas/images. I say “constellation” rather than “project” because I don’t go into writing new poems with an over-arching project idea/impulse; I just start to notice how the new poems are talking to each other, how they individually shine and shine together, like stars in a constellation. The poems in Banana Palace constellate hunger, appetite, environmental ruin, End Times, technology, the “real,” the “mutant,” post-apocalyptic survival. Noticing this does effect revision and may also suggest tropes, poems, to add to the mix, but I don’t start a manuscript with this in mind. I’m an obsessive by temper, but also chafe against the rigid; thinking in terms of constellation allows me to hold the subject(s) of obsession together while allowing them to speak freely and in whatever tropes and forms they individually want.

In revision, I’m guided by three related principles: 1) Poetry is a fictive space. You do not have to adhere to facts, autobiography, or whatever in “real life” may have prodded the poem. You get to make up stories about yourself and the world and time. Better to suss out the narrative, the lyric hub, the formal possibilities, the poem at hand is offering, rather than staying stubbornly true to personal intention and experience. 2) Wallace Shawn saying, “I think there’s something idiotic about the self,  that every day you have to get up and be the same person.” ―for ‘person’ insert ‘poem’. 3) Listen. 

Dana Levin is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Sky Burial, which was noted for 2011 year-end honors by The New Yorker, the San Francisco Chronicle, Coldfront, and Library Journal.

Levin’s work has received numerous fellowships and awards, including those from the National Endowment for the Arts, PEN, the Witter Bynner Foundation and the Library of Congress, as well as the Rona Jaffe, Whiting and Guggenheim Foundations. Her poetry and essays have appeared in many anthologies and magazines, including, most recently, The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Boston Review, The American Poetry Review, Poetry and The Arcadia Project. 

A teacher of creative writing and literature for over twenty years, Levin has served as the Russo Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at University of New Mexico (2009-2011) and currently co-chairs the Creative Writing and Literature Department at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
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