It’s my pleasure to host this Q&A from Sara Henning, a friend of mine and an excellent poet — who also has a very stylish website. Here, she explains how she tries to create and revise worthwhile poems:
The Writing Process Blog Tour
Many thanks to Daniel Wallace for hosting my installment of the vastly circulating Writing Process Blog Tour!
What am I working on?
I’ve been spending the past few months promoting and reading from my first volume of poetry, A Sweeter Water, as well as continuing to promote my chapbook, To Speak of Dahlias (2012). Both of these collections concern suicide, paternal order and the trope of longing. The reoccurring image of the dahlia weaves in and out of the fractured narrative as both a talisman and a taboo.
I have had the joy as of late to have been interviewed about these books by Laura Madeline Wiseman, editor of the groundbreaking Women Write Resistance, an anthology dedicated to resisting gender violence, and Sally Deskins of Les Femmes Folles. A collaborative interview with Laura Madeline Wiseman regarding these collections is also forthcoming on the Sundress Publications blog.
I’m also working on a collection of poetry entitled What Women Won’t Tell You, which I envision engaging with poetry as a means of embodied resistance to hegemonic narratives through both post-confessional protest and lyrical meditation.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
As a poet, my work explores issues crucial to the current contemporary moment. Most specifically, it tends to address the quiet war on women waged at home. In the wake of cases such as Ariel Castro and the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard, I brace myself for every time I watch the news. Every few months, another woman is found locked in a basement. Every few seconds, there is a woman suffering in silence. Now, if you will, pit this against the current state of poetry, with its focus on professionalization and bohemianism from within the ivory tower.
By writing work that engages with the current cultural moment, I’m trying to avoid being a McWriter.
Why do I write what I do?
Because I can’t help it.
Also, because I’m sick of reading writers who masturbate on paper.
How does my writing process work?
I begin with an idea, and I obsessively research it. I look for anything I can find out about it through disparate sources (Wikipedia, databases through my university, books, other articles, you name it).
I’ll then try to think about its narrative and lyrical applicability to a concrete moment or action. I then write long-hand in my journal until I feel like I have captured the moment.
I then attempt to weave in different incarnations of what I have researched, so what emerges is a patchwork of intertextuality—my lyric informed by empirical data.
I then type it all into an electronic document and obsessively revise it until I can’t look at it anymore.
I repeat the revision process until I come up with something I can live with.
Then I start sculpting.
If any other readers would like to answer some of these questions, email me! Maybe I can post some more of them, share our writing revision processes.
Join the popular (& free) course
Sign up to receive six lessons: build your writing skills and tell your story.