Tag Archives: Diane Lockward

Poet Diane Lockward – Part III

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?

diane 1DL: 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). diane 3

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Diane Lockward Part II on Three by Five

diane 4VAH: Diane, when did you begin to think of yourself as a writer and how did you come to this awareness?

DL: Years ago I wanted to write novels. I had what seemed like good ideas; what I lacked was the patience to sit at the desk for hours and hours pounding out the words. I then tried short stories and had a few published, but I finally admitted that I wasn’t crazy about the genre so it didn’t make sense to want to pursue it. When I volunteered to write poems for Stafford’s textbook-in-progress, I knew I’d found my genre. I made a conscious decision that I would pursue poetry and not give up. I began taking workshops and courses. I went to summer conferences. I read all kinds of craft books and poetry anthologies and books of poems by individual poets. I learned the craft, began submitting, and just kept on going.

VAH: Imagine you’re striking up a conversation with someone who wants to be a writer, or someone just starting out. What is your best advice for emerging writers?

DL: Learn the craft. It’s essential to have a heart and a brain, but you must also learn the craft and know what you’re doing and why. Be patient and persistent; it won’t happen overnight. Learning the craft takes years. Writing the poems takes weeks, months, even years. Sending them out is time-consuming and the responses are slow in coming back. Here’s my daily mantra: Go forth boldly.

VAH: How have you gone about studying writing? Did you consider the MFA?

DL: I do not have an MFA. I came late to the party. By the time I found poetry, I had three children in school and was teaching full-time. I did manage over a period of four years to get an MA in English Literature and then Supervisor’s certification. But I was tapped out at that point and an MFA seemed impossible. Nevertheless, I very much wanted to devour poetry, to learn the craft, and to become part of the poetry world, so I studied independently. I read books, journals, and craft books. I took local courses and workshops. In the summers I went away to conferences for a week or two while my husband took over the household.

VAH: Those conferences were opportunities to immerse yourself in writing. Do you have a favorite conference, writing retreat or seminar and why?

DL: The Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire, was hugely important to me. It was the first week-long conference I attended shortly after I began writing poetry. I went there nervous as a cat, but soon realized that I’d found my right place, that I fit in, and that, yes, I belonged there among other aspiring poets. I learned how to critique and be critiqued. I met other poets. I became part of a community of poets. I went back for seven summers. Two of those summers I also attended the Advanced Poetry Seminar there, run by Baron Wormser. One of the high points of my life occurred in 2005 when I was invited back to The Frost Place as a guest poet for the Conference on Poetry and Teaching. A perfect circle.

VAH: That must have been very validating. Diane, what is your writing life like currently?

DL: I am doing exactly what I want to be doing right now. After teaching high school English for twenty-five years, I decided to leave so I could spend more time with writing, so I could live as a writer, a poet. I now get to spend my days immersed in poetry. While I don’t write many more poems now than I did when I was teaching, I have time for other poetry-related activities. I keep a website. I also keep a blog, “Blogalicious,” where I post about once a week. I put out a monthly Poetry Newsletter that I started three years ago. Much of the material in my new craft book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, came from my blog and my newsletter. I’m sure that this book would not exist if I were still teaching. Nor, most likely, would my three poetry books, all of them published after I left teaching.

I also run two local events. One is a poetry festival that I began ten years ago. It’s called “Poetry Festival: A Celebration of Literary Journals.” It brings together a dozen journals and their editors for a day of poetry. Each editor invites two poets to read for his or her journal. While the journals are on display and the editors are talking with visitors—around 200—readings take place in another area of the library. The second event I run is called “Girl Talk: A Celebration of Women’s History Month.” For that, I invite 24-30 women poets to each read a poem on a woman-related subject. I’ve been doing this event for six years.

VAH: Later this month a review of The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop will post here on the site. The twitter size review would be simply Get this book! Be a better Poet! More with Diane Lockward on the 23rd. You’ll find links to a sampling of your work below:

Original Sin,” first place winner of the 2012 Naugatuck River Review contest.

The Third Egg” in Waccamaw: A Journal of Contemporary Literature.

Sinkholes” in Valparaiso Poetry Review .

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