Three by Five presents Part III and the conclusion to an interview with Poet Diane Lockward.
VAH: The blank page stares back at you, what gets you over writers block?
DL: I don’t wait for inspiration—I pursue it. That means showing up at the desk and being willing to write badly. Of course, there are days when I don’t feel like doing that, but I know that if I’m willing to do it anyhow eventually a poem will show up. I write on yellow legal pads, churning out pages and pages of garbage. Every few weeks I go over those pages and invariably find something worth saving and working on. I should probably mention that I’m not an everyday kind of writer. I know myself and my particular writing process well enough to know that I’m just not going to do that. I regard the non-writing days as gathering time. I do, however, spend a good deal of time each day doing something related to poetry.
VAH: Brass tacks of the writing life – how do you keep up with what you send out and results of your submissions?
DL: I have a form where I list journals, poem titles, and dates as I send out submissions. As responses come in, I indicate the results on the form, circling the Acceptances, crossing out the Rejections. It’s a primitive system, but it works. I also indicate the length of time it took a journal to respond.
VAH: Diane, Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote and why it works for you?
DL: Anton Chekov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” That’s an important craft tip, beautifully said. It’s the old “show, don’t tell” advice, but in giving it, Chekov demonstrates what he means. Although Chekov was a prose writer, I keep his words in my head when I’m writing poems.
VAH: What does the typical Diane Lockward writing day include?
DL: I read poetry with breakfast—journals, books, anthologies. Then I check my email. I do some non-taxing exercises in front of the TV and watch the news. I get dressed. If it’s a writing day, I sit at my kitchen table with another cup of ginger tea, and I read some poems, steal an idea, an image, or a line and run away with it, free writing for 10-20 minutes. Then I devote some time to revising poems in progress. If there’s time, I run a few errands. Late afternoon I spend reading a novel or memoir. After dinner reading is usually a literary biography or a craft book.
VAH: I like the balance and informal structure to your work day. Writers are often working in isolation. What are your thoughts on the writing community – writing or author organizations you belong to or where online you frequent for community, online conversing, networking or commiserating? Do you have any favorite online sites?
DL: I strongly believe that we poets need to support each other’s work. We make up the majority of the audience for each other’s work. If we want people to buy and read our books, we need to do that for other poets. As the Poet Laureate of my town, I feel a responsibility to bring poetry into the community. Thus I run the two events I mentioned before—Girl Talk and the Poetry Festival. Both of these events give poets an opportunity to read in front of a packed room and to sell some books. These events also give area residents an opportunity to listen to some poetry.
I have also worked as a poet-in-the-schools and am on the roster of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. I have worked at every Dodge Poetry Festival since 2002 and I read at the one in 2006. Both my blog and my Poetry Newsletter are efforts to spread the word about poetry. I also put out a weekly Gazette for the women poets’ listserv I belong to—Wompos.
Right now I’m reading manuscripts for a book contest. And for the second time I’m a guest editor for Adanna, a literary journal which is putting out a special issue on Women and Food, so I’m reading submissions for that.
Although I know that social media gobbles up time, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +. I don’t spend much time on either Twitter or Google +, but I like the poetry community that has become part of Facebook and have made good contacts there.
VAH: Social media can seem like a consuming job all by itself. Now for a couple bonus questions – what are three random non-writing related facts about you?
DL: My favorite dessert is Boccone Dolce. And I can make it. Three layers of meringue, each topped with melted chocolate, a layer of whipped cream, and sliced strawberries.
My favorite exercise is walking which I do with an iPod.
I feed goldfinches all summer. They have occasionally flown into a poem, for example, “April at the Arboretum.”
VAH: Boccone Dolce sounds tasty! How about a little known fact about you that will amaze or amuse?
DL: When I was a child, I would routinely eat an entire jar of dill pickles in one sitting. Then I drank the juice. A pickle juice cocktail.
VAH: Thank you Diane Lockward for taking some time with Three by Five. Coming on the 30th, a review of Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop (Wind Publications, 2013).