1) What am I working on/writing?
I am currently working on my first full-length collection of poetry, which is tentatively titled The Length of Distance. I have enough poems to complete a collection, but am still revising about ten of them, and then need to put the poems in order--which sounds like a really, really daunting task. The poems are quite different in subject matter, but the unifying thread is, as the title suggests, the idea of distance. Some distances explored in the poems are physical--moving away from home, travel, and long distance relationships. Others are emotional--empty or unrequited romantic relationships, the distance that forms between oneself and others after a great loss, and divorce. Not all the relationships in the collection are romantic--there are also family poems and friendships addressed. And the distance that even dwells within oneself, that distance between who you were and who you are becoming, who you are and who you want to be, is also worth consideration. How well the collection works as a cohesive unit remains to be seen, but I am excited to be nearing the stage at which I'll start piecing it together into sections and experimenting with how one poem best leads to the next.
2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
I found this to be the most difficult of the questions to answer. There is SO much variety in poetry. So in many ways, my poetry is quite like many others. In other ways, quite different. So I guess the best way to answer is to try to describe my style as a poet. I generally write in free verse, meaning I don't use a rhyme scheme or structured pattern. (The exception is my occasional attempt as a sestina, an incredible strict and repetitive form, but I digress.) However, in spite of the lack of pattern, I do like to divide my lines up into stanzas that have some consistency. I often use couplets or tercets. I also write poems with much longer stanzas, or even single stanza poems, but whatever form I end up with it, I try to allow the form to add pause and weight to the words wherever necessary. I tend to write short lines, creating a lot of space for emphasis. Like most poets, my work tends to be personal and relies heavily on metaphor and simile to pack an emotional punch and to make my experience relatable to my readers. I try not to shy away from specific details (names of airports, streets, cities, for example. Or including specific items like a pressed penny from the zoo in relation to an old boyfriend.) I've been told I have a knack for endings, for stopping on that moment that takes your breath away just for a second. That thing that can only be identified as "poemness" - that indefinable quality that makes something a poem and not just words on a page. (What a rambling and unclear answer this is!)
3) Why do I write/work what I do?
Author Lorrie Moore says of how to become a writier: "First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably." Many people say one does not choose to be an artist of any kind, it chooses you. I think this is partially true. I have wanted to be a writer since about third grade. It took me several more years to discover I'm a poet, and even more before I made the decision to BE a poet. I tried to be anything else. I was just going to minor in creative writing once I got to college, but before my first college-level poetry class was over (thank you Rhoda Janzen) I'd decided to major in English. After many years of being a sort-of writer, I finally began to embrace it, and after a few more years of studying poetry (thank you Jack Ridl) I made that decision - to go to grad school for an MFA in poetry and see where it would take me. It's been almost 10 years since I finished my MFA and I'm finally digging my heels in and working seriously on publications. (Teaching college can be a veritable distraction from your own writing.) But at the end of the day, I feel more whole when I write poems. It's one of the things in my life (tap dancing is another) that makes me feel more myself. The poems I write are often cathartic, a way to process life's experiences. They can also be a way to connect with others, with readers. And a way to observe the world around me and participate in some way by writing about what I've seen and felt.
4) How does my writing/working process work?
I tend to write when I feel moved or inspired, though I am trying to learn to be more disciplined. Usually a poem begins as just an idea. Either a metaphor, an image, or an experience that I'd like to write about. It churns around in my head for awhile. Maybe I'll jot down a line or just a tidbit. Sometimes it could be as short as a few hours of thinking about an idea before I draft a poem. Sometimes it could be months. But at some point I sit down with an old fashioned notebook and pen (often in a coffee shop or a park) and write the poem. After I draft it, I type it up and play around with line breaks and stanzas. I then usually take it to a few trusted writer friends for feedback before continuing to revise. Some poems go through very little revision, and others go through several drastic changes before I feel content with it as a finished product. The learning to be more disciplined part means I'm trying to carve out more space for inspiration and for drafting/revising. Time outdoors, time at a coffee shop, time at a museum, whatever it is. Getting out into the world helps me clear my mind of daily stress and make space for poetry. The more I can incorporate that space into my life, the more I find my poetry thrives.
Kari's website: http://karihall.com
Meridith's Blog: http://meridithcreates.com
Kristin's Blog: http://wordslikenets.blogspot.com
Joan's Blog: http://WritingThroughQuicksand.blogspot.com.