Here's my interview with poet, Elizabeth Austin, talking about her creative writing process.
LF: Do you remember writing your first poem? What was it about? EA: The first poem I ever wrote was a sonnet! I had just moved home and enrolled at BCCC, and my creative writing professor had us trying out different forms. I wrote a sonnet about sonnets. Then I wrote a free-verse poem about a tree growing up through my house, because the floorboards on the third floor were buckling and it seemed like something would burst through the floor at any moment, and that was really my first poem that I put any stock in.
LF: Who are some of your favorite poetic influences? EA: I tend toward reading work by Christopher Bursk, Kevin Young, Anne Sexton, Jamaal May, Matthew Dickman, and Brigid Pegeen Kelly, but I also love Ellen Bryant Voigt, Anne Carson, and of course Mary Oliver.
LF: Could you describe your creative process for writing poetry? EA: I've found that the writing doesn't come unless I'm moving, either taking a long drive or going for a walk or running in the evening...my body needs to be moving, and then my mind starts moving. Even doing the dishes can motivate me to start a poem in my head. The very worst thing for me would be to sit in a chair in the corner of my living room doing nothing. Music also helps, if there's a song I'm loving I'll sometimes listen to it over and over while I write, and see what comes from that.
LF: At what point do you decide to stop revising your work? EA: I revise until I can't think of anything else to do with the poem and it seems to me like it's finished, and then I'll pass it along to be looked at, because it's never actually finished at that point, it just needs fresh eyes. Beyond my own edits, I usually work each piece through with notes from the writing workshops I participate in, along with notes from trusted writer friends and mentors. At a certain point it becomes clear that the poem is saying what I want it to say in the way I want to say it, and that's when I leave it be.
LF: What are you working on now? EA: Right now I'm finalizing my very first full-length manuscript!
LF: Why is poetry important in the world? EA: Poetry is a way into things that seem like they don't have entrances, or their entrances have been boarded up. It's an amazing tool for self-expression, enabling a person to translate their experiences into art and then put it onto a page for other people to read. I think it's one of the most extraordinary things in the world. Poetry is a way to celebrate, mourn, rally, protest, explore, and remember.
LF: What do you hope readers take away from your poems? EA: I hope readers find pieces of themselves in my poems. And if not that, then I hope they see the pieces of me that I'm offering to them. Most of all...I really hope that my writing will inspire others to write their own stories and poems. Most people have no idea that they're writers, too.