The very first night as we sip our muse-inducing elderflower wine, Alexander Weinstein, founder of the Institute, opens the door of the conference room to symbolically cast out our inner critics — those editorial voices in our heads who tell us we’re not good enough, who bring us down, who impose self-doubt.
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.