After I set my sights on getting Kerry to recruit Shawnacy to Real Toads so I could interview her, I discovered that Shawnacy recently gave an interesting interview over at Muse Ampoule. Luckily, that interview only made me want to ask more questions! I've so enjoyed getting to know Shawnacy a bit via our interview process, and I hope you'll join me in following her two blogs, Guts and Juice and Gibberish and The Lilly Solomon Letters.
It's a pleasure to meet you, Shawnacy.
Your poems drive me rather crazy!
So I'm jonesing to ask:
Do your words rush out fast?
Or do they amble, torpid and lazy?
Bless you! So hey, Shawnacy, we have in common that we are parents. Can you please talk about how having children influences your writing, if it does? Or maybe the better question is, how does having children influence your living, and your writing?The pleasure is mine, I assure you.
Poetry's pace is no virtue.
Sometimes it's wan,
a long, slow yawn
And other times, ... Kerchoo!!
Having kids absolutely influences one's living. In every aspect. From day one. I'll go ahead and be mildly offensive right off the bat here and say I never really wanted kids. I had too many goals (still have them) and didn't really see the need to bring more people into the world. But life had some radically different plans, and I've ended up not only 'having kids' but having SEVEN kids... that'll teach you to make plans for your life.
Oh, that's not offensive! I can relate, and things have a way of changing, right? Tell me more about you and your family.
Our family is a mish-mash of biological and half- and step-siblings; and it is a beautiful, chaotic, madness-inducing, and exquisite thing. Being a mom, and now a single mom, has done so much for me in terms of personal definition, and, as a natural extrapolation, writing.
We write who we are, and part of who I am is the life-conductor for quite a few small souls. My kids are amazing tiny people, and have kept me light of heart and fleet of foot. They bring me back to brass-tack fundamentals, and keep me grounded when (as happens with those of the creative ilk) I get too close to the black edge of crazy.
What a perfect way to say it, Shawnacy, "life-conductor for small souls." That is a huge responsibility, too.
It is. But it's also really fun. I'll be really bummed when my kids are too big to climb trees and muck through mud and dig for pirate gold. I'll be the 50 year old nutter at the park swinging on the swings all by herself. Kids are great for one's inner equilibrium. It's hard to get lost in the abyss when there are games to be played and walks to be taken and clouds to be examined and riddles to be giggled over. I have written a number of things directed at a younger crowd, as can be imagined. My kids are excellent critics. I've found that when you have children, you are forced to look more closely than you otherwise might at what you really think/believe/want, and to find ways to share that with them on terms they can grasp. On the flip side of all this, of course... is that they take ALL my time, and writing (as well as thinking, reading, showering, talking to grown-ups, etc.) is relegated to the wee hours between 10pm and 2am.
Totally get it. With so many demands on you, of course the question (as it always is), then: Why do you write?
What a huge question! And it's a different question to ask ourselves 'why do I write' in general, as opposed to 'why am I writing this specific piece.' Because I think each work has its own purpose, and I know, for me at least, each poem/story has its own reason for being. But in general, I hold to Rilke's question when he wrote to the young poet, 'Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?' And I suppose the answer is yes, because I've found that writing (whether actually creating some kind of piece, or just desperate journaling) has been not only a constant throughout even the darkest, and/or busiest parts of life, but also an absolute salvation.
Shawnacy, in the scheme of things, amongst your various tasks and responsibilities, where does writing fit in? How do you put it all aside so that you can write, and why bother?
I was thinking recently how much I write in order to discover; to dig for answers to questions I haven't even voiced to myself. Which seems like a lot of pompous rhetoric and whatnot, I realize. But it's true nonetheless. I've found that so many times, it is not until I'm in the midst of a project, immersed in the process of writing, that the thoughts come. (Which is one reason that discipline is so important for me... and why I need to remind myself of that in huge glow-in-the-dark letters on the insides of my eyelids.) I can't tell you how many times I start out with not much... just a blank page and a single word or image, and somehow, somewhere in the middle of the page, I find that there's an idea there, and I just... it's like I just have to dig for it. Dig and dig until it is unearthed and then dust and polish it until it's shiny and at least a little bit fit for the world to see.
You say that you write visually--that ideas are images that you struggle to put into words. Do images in your world prompt you to write, or do your ideas create new images in your mind? Do you ever write to photo prompts? I often find it difficult to write to photo prompts; do they work for you?
That is a lot of questions! HA! ... Okay, often times it's something visual that will hit me in some significant way. I'm in the middle of reading Henderson the Rain King, by Saul Bellow, and just recently came across this, which is as near a description of what happens to us when we are undone/inspired by something as I've ever read:
'I felt the world sway under me and I would have reached, if I were on a horse, for the horn of the saddle. Some powerful magnificence not human, in other words, seemed under me... At once I recognized the importance of this, as throughout my life I had known these moments when the dumb begins to speak, when I hear the voices of objects and colors; then the physical universe starts to wrinkle and change and heave and rise and smooth so it seems that even the dogs have to lean against a tree, shivering.'Good CAT, I love Bellow...
In terms of ideas having their own imagery, though, that is completely true for me. There seems to be a kind of current of wordless thought that runs under our conscious mind, and it is from that waterway that the images come. They become problematic, however, in that they are strictly images. There are no words attached to them, and it becomes the job of the one holding the pen to search the world over to find the words that will--if not fill in the image itself (which is the thing that can never ((well, maybe if you're Bellow)) happen)--then at least fill in the space around the image, revealing it, that way. As the undefined space created by the words.
Picture prompts are hit or miss for me. When the image is one that sparks something, it can work well. When it's not, it's simply not. I try not to force it.
You mentioned that if you experience a block in your writing, that you might, among other things, "dive into a debate." With whom would you debate and about what? Do you engage in debate with your kids?
I love discussion. I have... quite a number of interests, to euphemize. My librarian has been known to give me strange looks when I hand her a stack to check out that includes fiction, poetry, theoretical physics, biography, sociology, philosophy, theology, linguistics, history, Dr. Seuss, literary criticism, mathematical theory, photography, travel... etc., etc., ad infinitum.
My kids LIVE to debate me. I'm beginning to question the wisdom of fostering that in them from a young age...
Hah! Be careful what you wish for!
Apart from the offspring, I have a few great friends who indulge me with discussion when I am itching to unfold an idea, and am also connected to a number of amazing blogs on various topics of interest to me.
In general, I am of the opinion that thinking individuals have a responsibility to be part of the Grand Discussion. Whether it be through debate, or in the legacy of their work, or their communication and correspondence with contemporaries, we who strive to live the Examined Life are invited to step up on the Stage of Time so to speak, and contribute our small verse to the Dialogue of human history. To quote one of my favorite poems by Walt Whitman,
'The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life?I could not agree more about our responsibility to participate. How are you connected to the community in which you live? How are you connected to the natural world? How much of the world around you influences your writing? What other influences are primary for you?
That you are here--that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.'
The world, in general, is absolutely dripping with inspiration. The natural sphere, certainly, but equally so, the cities and the places where people congregate and strive to live and work in close proximity. Then, too, ideas, and music, and a certain word that falls over the consciousness at a precise moment... it's pathetic, really. I keep telling myself to get a grip and stop being undone by EVERYTHING. So far, no dice.
Lucky for us, Shawnacy. Speaking for myself and I think maybe for our friends here at Real Toads, we like you undone! Thanks so much for indulging me with this wonderful interview. I look forward to more dialogue and debate with you.