Announcing A NEW workshop with Breena Clarke: How They Must Have Felt: developing an emotional landscape in historical fiction. This workshop created and led by Breena Clarke is one of six being offered as part of the Hobart Festival of Women Writers’ Fall Workshop Series. We’re entering our ninth year of platforming the work of women writers…
Before poets could read and write, they spoke their poems, and they drew and carved on available surfaces. When the monks began copying holy texts, they weren’t satisfied with words only; they began illuminating the manuscripts with both sacred and profane drawings and paintings. William Blake was famous for his poems rich with watercolors. What we call “outsider art” frequently features words and images. – B. Rogers
Books symbolize a desire to preserve history, to dream, to create, to share, and even if I can’t read the language they’re written in I believe in their power. Though aspects of our cultures may differ, when we read we discover that we’re all looking to be seen and understood, to be loved, and to feel like our lives are meaningful.
It was a childhood of inspiration and creativity. Some summers were spent in the mountains of upstate New York, helping my grandmother at the tourist home she owned on Main Street waiting tables and hanging crisp white sheets on the line, singing and entertaining guests after dinner. At college, I had the opportunity to spend my junior year in Siena, Italy. My early experiences gave me exposure to a world of creative minds and alternative life styles.
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.
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