Remember last year with The Next Big Thing? This year is the blog tour, and I thank Athena Kildegaard for inviting me to play along. I first encountered Athena's work when I was a judge for the Minnesota Book Awards--I love her elegance, her wise way of seeing the world. We're also lucky enough to have nabbed some of her poems for a later issue of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, so you can watch for those too. When these questions are answered, I'll send you on to see Valerie Wetlaufer and Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, who are taking the baton from me.
What are you working on?
I've begun research for a new project. I actually have no fewer than six concepts for a new book going, and I dabble in each, but I've decided to put the energy-thrust into one, which seeks to answer the central question: What do we tell our children about death? A lot of the book examines the personal (the passing of my father-in-law, our own bodies and lumps and whatnot, my interactions with my children), but also opens out into cultural, historical, faith-based, and other ways of processing the concept of death, dying, and the afterlife. There are all kinds of levels in which I am researching, from the science of death to The Egyptian Book of the Dead to the funeral industry to Kali to ghost stories.
Too: Promoting Nestuary. Sending Hush out to presses for consideration. Reading poems for Tinderbox and Midway.
How does your work differ from others in your genre?
I can't quite answer that, though I can speak to how I'm often self-conscious of my own work when considering it in relation to other poets' work: I have often found words like "confessional" and "maternal" come up in a negative fashion in the literary world, which I can understand--there's something about sentimentality, something about women's work that might make a person think of anything from greeting card fodder to hysteria.
Some work that has helped me think about these things: Sarah Vap's The End of the Sentimental Journey. Sharon Olds being my first love in poetry.
I also have found myself working a great deal in hybrid forms: memoir clashing against verse clashing against mythology clashing against reportage clashing against internet fads clashing against scientific fact. I think of it as braiding, as resurrecting and reforming.
Why do you write what you do?
I think of what I do as translating the world. It's something I could not stop myself from doing: I have a kind of filter, a kind of seeking of linkages. It's the way I pattern the world, I think.
I write of things like becoming a mother or witnessing the passing of someone I love a great deal because I know these are also, quite often, universal experiences. And people turn to poetry for comfort and for figuring out what might have just happened: what was it that I just went through? My work is a kind of answer to that. One of so many. Poetry speaking back to poetry speaking back to observation speaking back to a whole train of things.
How does your writing process work?
Right now, I'm trying something new. I'm keeping a set of five writing notebooks for my five separate books (the one on death, the one about Alaska, the one about women and violence and the south, the one that is a sequence of profiles of women, the notes from everyday life) in a little muppet-fuzzy lined carrier, and I keep all notes, all lines, poem drafts, clippings from magazines, photocopied poems related to the topic, etc. in each.
My days go a little something like this: drop my daughter off at preschool, come home, take notes from a documentary, check emails and submissions for Tinderbox and Midway, shower, fetch daughter, have our day and evening and at night, sometimes I can work on a new poem, sometimes I can work on another project. Sometimes, if a new poem isn't coming, I read poetry, or I revise a poem. Ease myself in.
Next Up: Valerie has already written her blog post, and Brett's is just around the corner.