Keep, keep, keep editing and toying with your work, knowing you are comfortable and believe in what’s on the page. You’re not a poet because it pays six figures starting out—you’re a poet because you feel like you need to be.
"The book tries to understand revolution, but what drives the novel is a filtering of revolutionary actions through the context of myth and the role played by storytelling in the creation of those myths. I became fascinated by the myriad depictions of Villa in the historical record, how he was and remains a remarkably contested figure, and how the outlines of that figure have been determined by stories that seem to channel the desires of a culture and a society through a singular man. Pancho Villa is a mythic character, and I try in the book to convey the manner by which that boy became that myth. "
“While much of my work has a serious tone, I employ humor in my daily life as a way to cope with many things, including stress and illness. If you cannot laugh about your situation, even in some small way, then things are very dark indeed.”
"Poetry has the ability to enact the change that politics promise, sometimes even more powerfully because it disrupts your biases, charges up your emotions, and integrates into the chemistry of your thoughts."
" I cannot always tell which lines are mine in the poems that appear in our books (after some time has passed). I think this shows we have built a collective voice that is different than either one of ours separately."
“You have to work with the words in front of you to create a new narrative in your voice. That’s thrilling. An erasure is like a choose your own adventure with words, a cento or a remix is like putting together a puzzle. But you have to tell your own story, just like any traditionally written poem.”
"Some days are shit. Some days are good. I make notes for stories but only once they’re fairly well formed in my head, and half the time I end up ignoring the notes. None of this matters. People find different ways to work. Inspiration happens but if you have to rely on it you’re probably screwed."
"I wouldn’t say being an editor has had a huge effect on my writing, at least stylistically. It does make you a more empathetic reader because you understand how incredibly hard and ludicrous this whole racket is. Plus, for me, It’s always fun to keep a finger on the pulse of the community. To feel like you’re a part of things no matter what’s going on in your writer life. To see what’s out there, what’s happening on the frontlines. And there’s no better feeling than finding a well-crafted, complete story in your queue written by someone you’ve never heard of."
"Like every writer, I’m nosy. And so I spend my time watching. Watching how people interact with their corner of the street, how they walk or stumble down it, how they dress for it. When I do that long enough or closely enough, a line or phrase will come to me, or a situation will emerge that I can latch onto and use."
"I think usually I am writing in the immediacy trying to process the fragments of my life, trying to process what goes on around me. I am wary of saying that I go to the page for therapy because I don't find writing to be in any way therapeutic, but it does help me understand my place or position in the place I find myself in."
I really love that idea, that we can share a bond with those who came before us (and those who come after, too, I suppose), and that we can read their stories, and also tell our versions of the stories they may not have been able to tell for themselves.
I like to write in spaces where I can either tuck my body into my surroundings or somehow make the place itself disappear. So: big leather chairs. Cups of tea. Balconies. The library. Pubs in the afternoon.
“Today I keep deciding to be a writer because I think the stories we tell ourselves, as a culture, are hugely important. It’s how we understand who we are, as a society and as a species. I want to be a part of that conversation.”
“Sometimes I can make the ending more forceful by stressing internal rhyme, but it really depends on the content of the poem. There is no magic formula, and it can take hours of head-banging. Afterwards, if I’m pleased with the result, I go through a period of elation. But it doesn’t last—the letdown is not knowing where the next poem is coming from.”
“I enjoyed pouring my feelings and thoughts directly into 'you,' erasing the line between reader and author. But perhaps the truer reason why I wrote the story in second person is so I wouldn’t have to write it in first. By convention, this would be a first-person narrative, and originally that’s what it was; but then it read like a personal narrative, oozing narcissism. I, I, I. There’s enough narcissism in the world without me adding to it.”
“I think it’s hardest to write when one is too close to things. More often than not it seems that the mental, creative context for writing is created by being able to step back from life. I often feel, as I’ve heard others say too, that the plain old every day is just right in your face, all the time.”
“She told me, in effect, to write like I was from Henry County, where we are both from, and that the best part of the poems I was sharing with her had a colloquial resonance to which I should try to stay true.”
“A brain scan can tell you what your brain looks like when you are in love, but it can’t tell you why that love matters to you. Maybe you can chemically explain the sensation, but that doesn’t satisfy you when you’re going to the ends of the earth for that love. A story can do that.”
"It was one of those nights when I wanted to write, but nothing seemed to come. That night I grabbed Ginsberg’s Kaddish from my poetry shelf, and it was the poem for his mother Naomi that enlightened me to start writing about my own."
"I spend the majority of my free time in a dimly lit room making up stories about ornery men and heartbroken women and not-quite-empty woods while my Labrador retriever keeps my feet warm and worries that I don’t get out enough."