Welcome to the Writing Process Blog Tour!
I’d like to thank Simone Muench for inviting me to participate.
Simone Muench is the author of five full-length collections including Orange Crush (Sarabande, 2010) and Wolf Centos (Sarabande, 2014), as well as the chapbook Trace (Black River Award; BLP, 2014). She is a recipient of a 2013 NEA fellowship, two Illinois Arts fellowships, and residencies to VSC, Yaddo, Artsmith, and ACA. She received her Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and directs the writing program at Lewis University where she teaches creative writing and film studies, while serving as chief faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review.
You can read Simone Muench’s responses here.
1. What am I working on?
I’ve been moving between translation and poetry projects this year; first, in the fall when I was on sabbatical and able to travel to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In the DR, I was able to meet with Sherezada (Chiqui) Vicioso whose collection of feminist essays on Caribbean women writers, Algo que decir (Something Worth Saying) I’ve translated with the help of Socorro Cintrón. Socorro and I are now working on a set of poems by another Dominican, Carmen Natalia Bonilla Martínez (1917 – 1976), Llanto para el hijo nunca llegado (Lament for the Child Never Who Never Arrived). Also related to translation, I’ve recently begun serving as the Translations Editor for a quarterly feature in the online journal, Escape into Life. The first translation feature there is Jesse Lee Kercheval’s work from Uruguayan poets, Augustín Lucas and Circe Maia.
As for my poetry projects, I’m finishing up two chapbooks of elegies that I hope to form into one manuscript: Threnody and The Fury Psalms. Both centered on elegy, the first processes grief through poetic forms, linguistic tropes, and seasonal markers to interrogate both personal loss and the loss of language that accompanies it. The second picks up some of those thematics through spliced centos in a larger dialogic structure that ventriloquizes Sexton and Plath, framed by “purer” centos with are then fractured into “extractions” that put a lengthier, discursive poem in conversation with the lyric knot excised from it. I hope to begin soon a “remake” of an older project, Eurynome in Exile, building on these projects and a previous series of “body centos” in ways that will allow me to explore the intersections between translation and poetry alongside hemispheric intersections of “American” identity.
I was delighted to read in Tyler Mill’s blog of her interests in “investigat[ing] the lyric persona, the body, landscapes, and memory,” as that speaks to my interests, as well, and yet, as I’ve been reflecting on my old project related to “exile” and issues of place, I’ve begun to realize that the lurking concern – and one of the lyric poem’s innate concerns – is with time. (Eurynome, Pelagasian goddess of place, was exiled by the Greek Cronus, god of time; you can read an excerpt from the initial project here: Seven Corners Poetry. I’m curious to see how that sensibility morphs what and how I write next, particularly as attitudes and grammars of time seem to be so culturally inscribed – U.S. Americans supposedly future-oriented, for example, and other Americans more engaged with the present or the past…
My work in elegy differs from others because of its more foregrounded attention to linguistic matters and metaphors as well as in my experimentations with the dialogic, the cento, and other stanzaic forms (couplet, tercet, sonnet, for example). To some extent my elegies also address gender and the gendered body, as well, probably because these later chapbooks or sequences follow my previous chapbook, Come clearing, which has those issues at its core. Another possible difference in my work is a Midwestern landscape sensibility and a tension between meditative tone and clipped or unusual juxtaposed phrasings.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Where “what” refers to content: because I’ve never felt completely at home and because words offer both a home and an exploration of its limits and possibilities—and by “home” I include landscape and body, relational constructs and language(s). Where it refers to genre: because I like the containers that poetic forms provide and prefer lyric to narrative and, to speak of translation as well, because I like to give voice to other voices and to be part of larger conversations in intimate ways.
I try to journal daily, every morning in a coffee shop or diner, and tinker with poems alongside or after that journaling. That tinkering sometimes means revising and re-revising a particular poem or leaping from work on an already “formed” poem to a new one that it might spark. I also let reading others’ poems and prose and even literature that I’m teaching set off a leap to writing. Too often, however, other work and life demands keep me from entering the “zone,” and then I might set myself an exercise, start copying out others’ poems I like, or revisit the cento form. When I’m really disciplined, I spend a weekend once a month at a local hotel, taking just the project or set of poems I’m working on which I can spread out on a king-sized bed to re-view and “finalize” revisions in the larger context of the project. I also have the good fortune of a poet-colleague and poetry/editor friends with whom I can workshop pieces to get another set of ears and eyes and fresh ideas for revision. Whatever I’ve moved on to reading next – novels, nonfiction, poetry, lit journals – also informs my re-seeing of a poem or project or launches me into another one.
In the next weeks, you’ll find insights and delights from William Allegrezza and Chris Green, other voices from the heartland, voices rich in quirkiness tinged some in city-grit and some in the sleight-of-hand quotidian.
Chris Green is the author of three books of poetry: The Sky Over Walgreens, Epiphany School, and the forthcoming Résumé. His poetry has appeared in such journals as Poetry, New York Times, New Letters, Verse, Nimrod, and Black Clock. He recently edited the anthology, Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose & Photography. He teaches in the English Department at DePaul University.
William Allegrezza edits Moria Books and teaches at Indiana University Northwest. He has previously published many poetry books, including still walk, In the Weaver’s Valley, Ladders in July, Fragile Replacements, Collective Instant, Aquinas and the Mississippi (with Garin Cycholl), Covering Over, and Densities, Apparitions; three anthologies, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century, The Alteration of Silence: Recent Chilean Poetry, and La Alteración del Silencio: Poesía Norteamericana Reciente; seven chapbooks, including Sonoluminescence (co-written with Simone Muench) and Filament Sense (Ypolita Press); and many poetry reviews, articles, and poems. He founded and curated series A, a reading series in Chicago, from 2006-2010. In addition, he occasionally posts his thoughts at P-Ramblings.