Friday, March 27, 2009

Great Month for Poetry

Despite what TS Eliot wrote (“April is the cruelest month”), I think April is a great time for National Poetry Month, especially for those of us who are committing to do some extra writing during these 30 days. At least in the Northern Hemisphere, since spring is inspirational and symbolic on so many levels.

I won’t say what my plan is, because I’ve found that making too formed of a writing plan kills the project before it’s born—but I will say that I’m doing something, hopefully around a certain theme and experience. 30 days is great time frame to develop a current project or generate a new body of work.

Are you in need of some added inspiration or direction? Both the Poetic Asides blog and Poets & Writers are posting daily prompts this month.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Working and Writing

Yesterday, in the course of a conversation, I told a friend that I nearly went into landscape architecture instead of writing. “Why?” she asked. So I had to ask myself—why did I abandon several years of experience in landscaping and horticulture to “start over” on a new vocational path?

I’ve had times in my life when my paid work was gardening or landscaping, and writing was a hobby. I’ve also had times when my paid work was writing or something to do with writing, and gardening was a hobby. I found that I prefer the latter state of being—it feels more flexible and filled with artistic possibilities.

My grad school advisor Rachel Pollack said that the best job for a writer is the one that allows you to do the most writing. My current day job now is great because it’s interesting and I interact with intelligent people, but it’s not all-consuming and doesn’t take up an undue amount of mental space.

Writing is a net that can be thrown over anything, incorporating all of the author’s varied and unusual interests. Currently I edit the newsletter of the Ecological Landscaping Association (a great nonprofit that educates professionals and homeowners about how to work with nature instead of against it in the landscape). The folks there told me it’s rare to find a writer who also has landscaping experience. If you are a writer and have other passions or experience (as all writers do), I encourage you to try find out how you can put them to good use—someone will value your background.

The other thing about jobs is that—just like all those failed relationships—everything is material. I have been an usher in a concert hall, a park ranger, ice cream maker, farmer, and after school teacher, just to name a few of the positions I’ve held over the years. As Pat Schneider wrote, “Live your life thoughtfully, empathetically. Listen, and watch. Write. From these practices will come the most important things you need to know in order to create good fiction.” Or good anything.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Poem of a Certain Place and Time

So I logged onto the Writer's Almanac today as I often do, and found a poem by James Tate entitled "Suburban Buffalo." What are the chances that I have seen those same buffalo? I have seen them. James Tate teaches (taught?) at UMass Amherst, which is a short trip down Route 9 away from the bowling alley in Northampton, MA. On that two-lane strip of wannabe highway in Hadley stands (stood?) the Longview Bison Farm, the land of which has been sold and will soon be a Lowe's.

Tate's poem is a wonderful portrait of a surreal moment in real time, which concludes with a fanciful depiction of deconstructed farmers. It seems even more poignant when you know that the buffalo in the poem are no longer there and the poem has become an inadvertent memorial.

Write ye poems while ye may
old Time is sure a-flyin'
the same subject matter that's there today
tomorrow may be bulldozed

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Vessels of Words

There are different stages
to this process:
throwing poems
letting them dry
trimming them
glazing them
sometimes smashing them
and starting again.