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.