Thanks to Jeannine Hall Gailey for inviting me to participate in The Writing Process blog tour; Jeannine recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington and is the author of three books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers. She has been featured in The Year’s Best Horror and Verse Daily, and her work has appeared in journals like The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner.
You can read Jeannine’s responses to the blog tour questions here, and below are my responses to the same:
1) What am I working on?
At the moment, I’m working on a poetry manuscript about disability, illness, and body image in women. That description probably sounds like a real downer, but I like to think that the manuscript is turning out to be one that’s accessible, approachable, and funny. Many of the poems follow a character I’m calling The Unreal Woman; she’s the antithesis of what our culture dubs a “real woman” in that she doesn’t “have curves,” give birth to phalanxes of children, or walk on her own power (much less in stiletto heels), for example. She’s a character in the spirit of Bell’s The Dead Man or possibly even Berryman’s Henry.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
While this project examines serious themes and plumbs what is some raw and frighteningly personal territory for me, it is still one that, as I say above, I hope will be full of humor. It’s not always easy for us to approach others’ experiences in life or in literature, and I want this book to be one that helps readers gain meaningful entry into a conversation about the ways we as humans-in-bodies look at, speak about, interact with, and ultimately help or harm one another.
3) Why do I write what I do?
A diverse world requires a diverse literature; it’s important that readers see reflections of their own lived experiences in literature, and to recognize their stories and concerns in the ongoing conversation of American poetry. When I was first diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease some three-ish years ago, I felt adrift in the poetry world; I didn’t see many poems that had to do with this new reality I’d entered. When I came to Lucia Perillo’s work, I clung to it ferociously because I could say to the poems, me too. Of course, we read poetry to experience others’ worlds, not simply to underwrite our own views, but I do think it’s important that readers can find work that speaks to them in their particularities. I want others with chronic conditions and disabilities both visible and invisible to have the opportunity to read work that acknowledges their unique experiences. I want them to have the opportunity to say that’s me. I see myself here.
4) How does your writing process work?
I tend to write in the mornings, when I have the most energy and focus. Because my handwriting is a disaster, I work solely on the computer (if I wrote by hand, I’d have no idea how the poem would take visual shape on the page). Generally, ideas for poems arrive in my mind fully formed, and when I sit down to the page, I tend to have a clear sense of what I’m trying to achieve. Sometimes I envy those who discover what they want to say as they write, but I’m a full-draft-at-a-time poet, for better or worse. Typically, I work for a few hours to lay down an initial draft, breaking and re-breaking lines and stanzas until I think I’ve achieved a rough approximation of the content and form of the poem. Any given piece then goes into a “marination” period of a few days to a few weeks, at which point I come back, hopefully with fresh perspective, and begin the revision process.
Next week, two new poets/bloggers will respond to these questions as well. Both of these smart, savvy, accomplished writers will give us some good thoughts to chew on, I guarantee.
Descended from Norwegian plumbers on one side and bohemian Russian aristocrats on the other, Stephanie Barbé Hammer has published a prose poem chapbook, Sex with Buildings with Dancing Girl Press in May 2012 and will publish a full length poetry collection, How Formal?, with Sprout Hill in 2014. A former New Yorker and survivor of Manhattan’s elite private schools, Stephanie lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 12 tiny cacti.
Tanya Chernov earned her MFA in poetry from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Author of the Kirkus Review’s 15 Excellent New Memoirs, A Real Emotional Girl (Skyhorse Publishing), and editor of The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss (new from Flash Foreword), she is the former poetry and translations editor for the Los Angeles Review. Tanya lives and writes in Seattle with her dog, Mona, though the roots of her heart remain firmly planted in Wisconsin. Go Packers!