1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
When I first started publishing in the early 1980s, I was not too conscious of the importance of poetic lines. But that began to change as I continued. I like to mix end-stops with enjambments. Enjambments create a question that the following line answers, thus creating tension in the reading of the poem. However, too many enjambments often can confuse the reader. I also like to match lengths of lines as much as possible for the visual shape on the page. I find this important to most publishers. Lately, I count the lines when I have a good flowing draft and divide them into stanzas that slow down the poem and aid the reading. I’m very fond of step-down stanza’s in short poems, which I might have gotten from Mary Oliver.
Second Story Windows
Why so many upstairs windows
Stained with fingers…
and that morning a block off Central,
in the second story of the Robertson Hotel,
one window collaged with fingers,
a face, ghost white,
brown eyes cataract blue,
staring out the window with her hands.
I write most poems with a pen, the dance of hand and fingers instead of keys on a computer. I try to hear it as I write, but in a kind of unplanned way that is difficult to explain.
Perhaps Robert Frost said it best about the body:
I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.
A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.
When I first started writing for publication, I took rejection very personal. This feeling, however deep, I learned was foolish, even selfish. I don’t remember the western poet who said that beginning poets should read twenty poems for every one they write. Read, Read, Read.
And please read “A Way of Writing” by William Stafford. It starts:
A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is
someone who has
found a process that will bring about new things he would not have
thought of if he had not
started to say them… (it goes on for four pages and can easily be googled).
Bill Brown is the author of eleven poetry collections and a writing textbook. The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awarded him The Distinguished Teacher in the Arts. He has been a Scholar in Poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a two-time recipient of Fellowships in poetry from the Tennessee Arts Commission. Brown has published hundreds of poems and articles in college journals, magazines and anthologies. The Tennessee Writers Alliance named Brown the 2011 Writer of the Year. His new and selected collection, The Cairns, is just out from 3: A Taos Press in Denver. He lives with his wife, Suzanne, and a tribe of cats in the hills north of Nashville.