“Go out in the world and experience life.”
Breaking Edges (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2012)
What’s your chapbook about?
Good question! I just realized that all the poems in this book are about discomfort or meant to discomfort the reader with their content. Breaking Edges says it all. That which is broken. The edges that tear or snag or hurt you. Also the act of breaking which can be destructive but also revealing. And breaking even the edges of our ordinary days.
It starts out with the title poem which is about having MS. “Edges mock me/with their perfect fists.” My body has defined my world. I have been mainly housebound for 7 years and spent 3 years in one room. My edges are my bones broken from falls and the limits of my mobility. The edges also mock me because I know there is something beyond those edges for others, but not me. A real sucker punch to my life.
But other poems do stretch beyond myself. “K.I.A” is about Geronimo and the genocide of his people as well as modern wars. It was written as a reaction to the US government’s code name, Geronimo, for the capture of Bin Laden.
“One Day in the World” is about the exploitation of children worldwide and gun violence. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Indian” is more humorous, yet the final paragraph has a message of tolerance.
My most recent chapbook, also by Red Bird Press, is A Thousand Branches. It was inspired by two internet groups. One proposes that you write a poem a day for a month. The other asks that you send a postcard of your art/writing to people all over the world for the month of August. So I combined both and wrote a poem and did art on a post card size format. After it was done, I decided to see if I could make a chapbook out of it. I have 32 pages and was excited by Red Bird’s idea of creating actual postcards (on tear away pages) for the book. This kind of duo media book is something that Red Bird is good at.
If you have written more than one chapbook or novella, could you describe each of them in chronological order?
I’ve been writing for 40 years. I have quite a few chapbooks including ones published in France. My first one was published by Blue Cloud Abbey and was called The North People, 1982. In the same year, another chapbook came out, Burning the Fields, by Confluence Press.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
The oldest poem is “Song of Our Times” which was commissioned and published by the Sierra Club magazine in 1996. It’s a poem about ecology and our relationship to the earth.
Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?
The last few years have been difficult for me. It’s hard to write/type anymore. My fingers are clumsy. Or weak. I don’t have a prompt for writing. I tend to respond to other art, world issues, or some art that I’m doing personally. For example, I’m part of a 3-Woman art collaborative. My friends Lulu Kelly and Claudia Gerloff Pinkham and I have done several art projects together, including a traveling painting we all did for a benefit. We did a book on the theme of Art and Latin America, which was collage, poetry, and our art. It was in the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona and then later archived in the Smithsonian. Our current project is about Don Quixote. The themes were the Strangers, the Exiled, the Dreamer. I wrote poems and included art. So to answer the questions, the prompts tend to be ideas. My process for the Quixote book has been the page limitations. I had a certain number of pages to fill. So I worked towards that goal. It’s kind of three chapbooks within one book. We actually find a large book at the thrift store and reformat it for our own use. It’s called Altered Books.
We have also done a book of secrets this way. My section or “chapbook” includes 10 poems and art. I’d like to take those poems someday and make it a “regular” chapbook.
How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?
It takes a lot of thought and head scratching. Somehow it all comes together. The title is vital. It has to encapsulate the book in many ways. I don’t know how I finally decide!
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
As an artist myself, I’m lucky to do my own book covers.
What are you working on now?
Nothing right now. I wish I had a reason because it might push me beyond my lack of energy. I finished my section of the Quixote book last spring. Lulu did hers and now its Claudia’s turn.
What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?
Read a lot of poems, modern and ancient from around the world and different cultures. Go out in the world and experience life. Don’t be too full of yourself. Be open to life. Writing is a way to filter life and understand life but those you love are most important. You will find your writing voice. Or it will find you as you mature.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chapbook authors?
Be ruthless in choosing the poems to be included.
What music do you listen to as you work and write?
Most of the time, nothing because it will influence the tempo of the words too much; I never listen to songs with lyrics.