Welcome to this stop of the Writing Process Blog Tour!
I’d like to thank Andrea Scarpino for inviting me to participate. Andrea Scarpino is the author of Once,Then, a collection of poems published in March 2014 by Red Hen Press, and The Grove Behind, published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. She is a weekly contributor to the blog Planet of the Blind and teaches in Union Institute and University’s Cohort Ph.D. Program in Interdisciplinary Studies, where she is the Creative Dissertation Coordinator.
1. What am I working on?
I’ve been spending a lot of time this past year traveling and reading from Tongue Lyre, my first book of poems. This weekend, I’ll be at the Split This Rock festival in DC for the Women Write Resistance Anthology, which includes the title poem from the collection (“Tongue”).
Tongue Lyre is a book-length sequence: it’s about what it feels like to be a young woman in our particular cultural landscape. It’s about music and art. It’s also about rape.
My manuscript-in-progress began as the search for the answer to a question that history has appeared to erase: my grandfather’s involvement in the Nagasaki mission. I’m fascinated with maps, reportage as a genre, and the particulars of flight. This new manuscript investigates the lyric persona, the body, landscapes, and memory.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
One of my mentors once told me that I go right into the heart of the fire with my fire-proof suit on.
I’m not afraid of disorienting the reader, of trying out different voices, or of adopting language that comes from a context that might seem antithetical to poetry.
3. Why do I write what I do?
“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
— Rilke, in his fourth letter to Franz Xaver Kappus.
4. How does my writing process work?
I revise constantly. All of it starts with playing with the materials of language. I play the violin, so I suppose I like to think about beginning a poem as “warming up.” Sometimes, like practicing arpeggia, phrases fold right into a larger idea. Writing is an intuitive process, but it requires preparation. When I’m able to play something difficult, it’s because my hands have been prepared to act as though without thought.
I like to think of this “as though” as how we move through the world as writers: reading, thinking, and engaging with texts (as well as with each other).
Speaking of engaging with each other, next week, you’ll hear from Simone Muench and Lee Ann Roripaugh, two poets I really admire. Stay tuned!
Simone Muench is the author of five full-length collections including Orange Crush (Sarabande, 2010) and Wolf Centos (Sarabande, 2014), as well as the chapbook Trace (Black River Award; BLP, 2014). She is a recipient of a 2013 NEA fellowship, two Illinois Arts fellowships, and residencies to VSC, Yaddo, Artsmith, and ACA. She received her Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and directs the writing program at Lewis University where she teaches creative writing and film studies, while serving as chief faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review.
Lee Ann Roripaugh’s most recent volume of poetry, Dandarians, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2014. Her third volume of poetry, On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year, was released by Southern Illinois University Press in 2009. A second volume, Year of the Snake, also published by Southern Illinois University Press, was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004. Her first book, Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books, 1999), was a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series, and was selected as a finalist for the 2000 Asian American Literary Awards. The recipient of a 2003 Archibald Bush Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship, she was also named the 2004 winner of the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, the 2001 winner of the Frederick Manfred Award for Best Creative Writing awarded by the Western Literature Association, and the 1995 winner of the Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize. Her short stories have been shortlisted as stories of note in the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and two of her essays have been shortlisted as essays of note for the Best American Essays anthology. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Roripaugh is currently a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review.