Sometimes, not often, I’ve found the writing of a story or a novel to resemble Nansen’s smooth and well-planned voyage. Sometimes I know, roughly, where I’m going; sometimes I can also guess the routes by which I might reach that destination. Usually, though, my experience has more closely resembled that of the hapless souls aboard the Tegetthoff.
“Virginia Woolf’s amazing essay ‘On Being Ill’—where she interrogates literature’s lack of focus on illness, the collective obsession with the drama of romance over the drama of often inseparable physical and mental ailments—has been a jumping off point. So, I’m writing though some of my own experiences via Woolf and also some other artists and writers.”
“As much as I try to stay open to wherever the poem is going, I know my concerns come with me to the page. Environmental concerns, political concerns, as well as literary concerns. I hope my poems can find an audience, even one outside of the usual readership of poetry — although that doesn’t really shape the composition of poems.”
The artists I know are perfectionists, heartlessly so, because that is required. They will paint right over a failed canvas; they will rip out every stitch and start anew. The artist comes to her material with an mix of control and surrender, and her success seems to rely on her ability to grasp a material’s specific demands, while reconciling those with her own vision. There is something there, in the material, that works against you—which requires rigor, but might bring relief.
“Humor helps the heart to open. And heartfelt laughter leads us towards greater connection with those around us. If you can find a way to share humor with others, then there’s an openness towards greater listening and compassion. With the serious topics I write about […] there’s a way such stories can calcify the heart if one isn’t careful. I noticed this in my teaching—if I’m just giving my students the disturbing facts about humanity without humor, it can lead to depression, discouragement, and a deeper political/social apathy. So, humor seems to restore our humanity to us—it allows us to deal with suffering with a more open heart.”