I never consider how I’ll read a poem while writing it. When reading it to listeners, the greatest gift I can give them is spontaneity. Something in the read or recited poem should always remain fluid, open to surprise.
The integrity of your voice is important. So is delivering a well-crafted piece of prose. Clarity and readability are essential if you want to be understood — and read.
What are “these times” for us as writers, readers and community members? Are they different given our particular identifications/localities/literary genres? What is “the news”/what are the issues occupying our writings today? How are we expressing a practice of language in our writing?
Character is a product of dynamic interaction with place, whether that place is a modern city, a medieval castle or a space station on an alien planet. No matter where, how can setting support a character’s desires and actions? How will it frustrate them and generate conflict?
My goal isn’t usually project completion or “making” time for everything. It’s simply about acknowledging and honoring my impulses to create, however or whenever they emerge. I like to let a project take shape on its own, let it evolve around my life and living, rather than force it to adhere to a certain timeline.
Voice, to the extent that it is a thing in itself, is not a static or stable thing. A writer’s voice changes with time, and all the time. With every piece, every character, every subject, perhaps with every line, a writer’s voice has to change. I would worry that writers whose voices do not change over time would get tired of hearing themselves talk. This is not to say that that voice is fully and wholly new each time a writer writes; but each time a writer changes, so too does her voice.
When you don’t know the story of your people, it’s like somebody reached in and snatched out a big chunk of your backbone. You need your backbone. You need your whole story, as much of it as you can get. And it needs to be the story as your people lived it, not the official version. That is part of poetry’s work in the world—to help keep alive stories that we need to live by.
So performance got intertwined with my self-definition and with finding my voice. Since then, performance has helped me to understand voice — especially spoken language vs. written language. It has allowed me to feel the pressure of a listening audience, which helps to edit and craft a text.
The best encouragement I can give to other literary late bloomers is that age brings a depth and width of life experience and wisdom to our work, as well as understanding about how complex our world can be. This ability to reflect on what we’ve seen and thought, to dig deeply into big questions, is a potentially amazing resource usually not available to young writers.
Even if I’m not writing specifically about the Adirondacks, the nature reflected in so much of my poetry is invariably this kind of nature: dark pines, rushing streams, a bumpy horizon designed by departing glaciers and old tectonic shrugs.
That, and yes, this first May poppy’s
burst into scarlet guffaw (after weeks
of nodding tight-lipped hush.)
After inevitable March, May
and we are—praise the gods—
budding, bursting, juicy
again. – Ginnah Howard
…I want to believe the sun
hovered in the lark’s throat before it flew away,
before we saw the white wall rise behind each other’s
eyes, remnant from when we held a howl in our hands
and tried to write the story of forgiveness.
—Cynthia Dewi Oka