I’m very happy to have been invited to participate in the My Writing Process — Blog Tour by fellow poet and Cave Canem sister Pamela Taylor. I met Pam last year at the Cave Canem retreat for fellows. We became cafeteria buddies and bonded over discussions on craft and our shared Southern culture. Pam’s blog A Poet’s Double Life offers tantalizing treats for those who are trying to lead creative lives while punching the 9 to 5 clock. I have been following Pam’s blog for the past year, and her unyielding motivation has inspired me to continue my own creative journey while here in China; and her poem-a-day challenge during the month of April offered me poems everyday to feed my soul. I am delighted to be a part of a this online creative community, so thanks Pam for inviting me to take part in this tour!
What are you working on?
I am always working on several poems and creative projects. I enjoy being in the mix and China has provided plenty of poetic possibilities for me to draw from. I’ve been focusing on form the past few months and am in the middle of editing my first attempt at a sestina. The form is very challenging, but rhythmically rewarding. “Leaving Beijing” is about how I try and capture moments with my pen; a meditation on time and memory. I will post it once I’m at least 75% happy and presently I’m at maybe 65. On a side note, My favorite word right now is presently and I’ve actually thought about writing a series of sestinas that all use the word. I like how presently captures the here and now in a very British sort of way. “Leaving Beijing” would be the first in this series. Maybe all would be about time in some sense or another. We’ll see….
I’m also working on a series of Chinese Couplets written in English. I’ve finished the first two groups of couplets written for the The Dance Between East and West project I’m co-creating with my colleague Barbara Moreland and several Chinese students from the English and Art departments. The project, which will be showcased next weekend, partly focuses on creative interdisciplinary approaches for teaching and learning English and partly focuses on the intersection between visual and written representations of China’s changing landscape. Once we finish the project, I will blog about it and share some of the couplets and drawings. My couplets for the project are nature poems based on my travels around China, and I plan to finish the series after Eris and I take our last sojourn to Shanghai. I’m really excited about this series. Following the Chinese couplet rules, which I modified from the traditional rules with the help of my students, are a challenge because the brevity of the form forces me to focus even more on the individual word. These compressed images of my Chinese experience will also be used for my poetic postcards, so a few of you will get to see these first hand.
Along with creating new work and planning poetic events, I am also reediting my first book and submitting a shorter version to several chapbook competitions, and I have a few other journals to send poems to before this year’s submission season comes to a close. Over all, staying active creatively is the stuff that feeds me. No matter what, I focus on sustaining and nurturing my creative side. Besides, people tend to enjoy my company better when I allow myself time to create!
How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
Hummm, I suppose the short of it is that my work is just that, mine. I write from my own quirky sense of self. I write about my experiences which are shaped in part by my identity as a Southern multi-racial woman, as a traveler, mother, vegetarian, and observer of the world in the late 20th and early 21st century. I think my voice is uniquely my own, as a fellow creator once mused, “kinda like Shel Silverstein with soul,” and a little attitude too I might add. I like humor because laughter is like medicine and I like rhyme and rhythm ’cause I like to get down and funky.
Why do you write what you do?
To sort out the crazies, the sillies, and the rest of the obsessions. To find peace. To attempt to connect through shared experience. To risk and rattle the edges of the mundane. To spark curiosity, inspire, warn, hold hands with and skip on down the lane. I wrote my first poem when I was three and since then the written word has been my guide; through all life’s growing pains, failures, changes, triumphs, tests, loves, lovers and losses I write–it’s what I do.
How does your writing process work?
Well, it depends on what I’m writing. All of my creative writing is initially done long hand. I write drafts and snidbits on whatever is handy. Various notebooks, envelopes, receipts, whatever is closest when an inspired thought hits. Sometimes poems come when I’m writing in my journal. For my fixed form poems, I will usually write an outline of my idea and then an outline of whatever form I’m using. Then I free write within the frame work and slowly cut back and rearrange. After a few drafts I type the poem and continue to edit (usually playing with word choice and structure) until I feel I have something. Then I’ll send it out to a friend and/or read it to my mom. My mom isn’t the best critic though because she loves all my work and usually cries. My academic writing is far more controlled. I almost always start with a typed draft and go from there. My edits could last forever if there weren’t deadlines. God bless deadlines, it’s the only way I function. Academic writing is also the reason my house stays clean. There is nothing like a late night bathroom scrubbing to help the writing process along.
Thanks again Pamela Taylor for inviting me to this fun blog tour, and thank you guys for reading my post!
I met Sara Amis marching in a protest on Peachtree St. close to 13 years ago. We both had our kids with us and connected over Sara’s Hip Mama t-shirt. Years later we reconnected in the M.F.A. program at UGA. Now she is one of my close poet friends, and she’s a fellow Southern feminist with enough wit and witchy grit to keep you hang’n on to each word.
I also met Ashley David while I was at UGA. Her passion and knowledge on African Diaspora studies led me to suggest her as my replacement at the Mandala Literary Journal. She successfully ran the journal for two years before graduating with her PhD and moving to Warsaw Poland. Ashley’s poetry is sharp and her experimental edge keeps me on my toes.
Sara Amis: I grew up in north Georgia, among the ridges and valleys of the lazy tail end of the Appalachians. My father was a civil engineer and my mother was a high school English teacher. My family is full of educators, storytellers, and eccentrics, and I am no exception to any of it.
Ashley David, MFA & PhD, makes word-art-sound things and lives in Warsaw, Poland. Recent work has appeared in The Offending Adam, Hyperallergic, and Conjunctions. She is the founding blog editor for, and a regular contributor to, the Michigan Quarterly Review.