Today is a day of new beginnings. It is September of course and whilst for me this year has seemed to be more about endings, I feel I am about to turn a corner. The Linnet’s Wings Autumn Issue will be out later this month — CURRENT ISSUE and I have some work coming up in various places. BLIZZARD

Six years ago in September I began working with this lovely lady in  Wyoming and although we have not met in person, we are friends and one day perhaps… It was a real pleasure to work with Constance and she taught me a lot — particularly about Japanese short forms; Renga, Haiku, Senryu, Tanka and Haibun.

LINKS to essays by Constance:

HAIKU
HAIKU TOO
TANKA
POETIC MUTANT

Her deft and insightful comments on the poems submitted to us made me see poetry through other eyes — a precious gift. Her unfailing humour was, many a time, a welcome diversion in my day and she is such a talented lady — poet, artist, textile artisan and maker of this Youtube classic Merlin vs the Water Monster 🙂

Over 6 years we have published a couple of thousand poems together and read thousands more. But we never got much chance to read each other’s poems. So for the next few weeks I will be celebrating the poetic talents of my former colleagues, Constance, Jeff Jeppessen and Kathleen Mickelson and talking to them about poetry in general and their own work. So I start this week with a couple of questions for Constance and I hope you poets enjoy the links above and take a little time to browse her blog Life on the Perifery

constanceConstance, Why poetry?         

I started as a visual artist who incorporated words into my imagery. Eventually, I found myself enamored with the words more so than the images, and turned to poetry as an alternate means of expression. I was living in Buffalo, NY, and had the good fortune to hear some of the more interesting poets working at the time, Robert Creeley and Carl Dennis. I went through long stretches where I didn’t write poetry, I wrote novels and short stories. It’s only been the last ten years or so that I’ve been able to write both fiction and poetry on a regular basis. The muse seems happy to flip between them or even let me work simultaneously on poetry and genre fiction. I’ve found the happy medium of being able to tell my stories in shorter poetic bites or longer narratives. Now I’m working on writing poems in themed blocks, with an eye towards pulling a chapbook or two together.

What you love and what you hate.

I love narrative poetry and poets that can tell a story in a succinct manner. I was raised on Shakespeare, Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Longfellow, and still retain my love for a poem with well-done meter and rhyme. I love the works of Louise Glück and how her poems can feel like stones dropped into the well of your stomach. I love poems that put themselves out there, warts and all, and invite you to share their pain and joy. I love the mouth feel of a good poem as you read it aloud – the way certain words turn to butter in your mouth, the way others need to be spit out like tart fruit. Most of all I love poems that are honest, heartfelt, and real.

Hate is too strong a word, so let’s just say I dislike poorly thought out rhyming poetry, poetry with a message that beats you over the head, confessional poetry that is too intimate for a reader to share in, and stream of consciousness poetry that has never been edited — or most poems that haven’t been honed down to essentials.

Some memories of editing at EDP.

Editing was always an interesting process. In every poem there was that one line or one image that said so much. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the poet didn’t build on the image and that made me sad. So much potential. I’d advise poets to go back through old work, pick an image and write a new poem based around that image. You can’t steal from yourself, right? The other fun of editing was discussing the poems with my fellow editors. It was interesting to get a different perspective on a poem, especially when it was one I hadn’t thought of.

Your achievements/ambitions as a writer.

My ambitions as a writer are pretty simple. To get my work out there and get published. With poetry, get a good body of work out there and get a chapbook put together, for fiction, get my fantasy novel in the hands of an agent. Keep working on my second novel and get it finished so I can start editing it. In poetry, it’s funny – I write a poem and think “that’s it”. I’m done, I’m out of ideas, nothing else will be forthcoming. The next day or so a phrase, a line, an idea or image takes hold and I’m off again, composing a poem, only to think at the end, again, “I’m out of ideas”. I think it’s my mind’s way of resetting itself and getting rid of the influence of the previous poem. I’ve been lucky enough to be published in several Wyoming chapbooks and an anthology from the Wyoming Arts Council, as well as in New Poets of the American West anthology. I have poems in reviews and journals. I’m not a prolific short story writer, although I have had several published. My main drawback is I don’t submit enough, something I hope to change in the coming year. It’s like they say – “You can’t win if you don’t play”.

 SheepCloseupNEXT WEEK: “Yarn Sonnet” by Constance Brewer

What would I like to be when I get fleeced? Colourful, of course.