How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers’ group that you work ideas and poems with?
Yes, I have several long-term writing groups that I rely on for inspiration, attentive editing, motivation, and encouragement. These groups are a crucial part of my writing practice, and have broadened my poetic goals and sharpened my revision skills. And they hold me accountable: we each feel the responsibility to bring a new piece of writing, and if nothing else does, that gets us writing.
Over the past eight years or so, many of my poems have emerged in the reading/writing classes that Hoa Nguyen teaches; we write in response to, or alongside, the poet we’re reading (these have included Charles Olson, Frank O’Hara, Gertrude Stein, James Schuyler, Emily Dickenson, C.D. Wright, Philip Whalen, Jack Spicer, Lorine Niedecker and so many others). I’m grateful to Hoa and the poets we have read because, through them, I think I’ve learned to “aerate” my poems a little more, to reduce their narrative density and to turn to allusiveness more.
But I also have several long-term writing groups that I also rely on for inspiration, editing and encouragement. These groups are a crucial part of my writing practice. In the 90s, I started out with a women writers’ group—we called ourselves The Miss Vickies (after the potato chips!)—where we simply sat and wrote in each other’s company. As time has gone on, I’ve helped form or joined a few other groups, each with a personality and purpose of its own. An important one has been with Barry Dempster, Maureen Scott Harris, Jim Nason and Liz Ukrainetz, each an accomplished writer and editor. Out of this this group grew a project, an interview that Maureen Harris and I did with Barry Dempster about his writing and editing career. (Parts of this interview were published online in The Puritan (http://puritan-magazine.com/muse-office-hours-barry-dempster/; the full interview will be published as a chapbook by Maureen Scott Harris’s Fieldnotes/MSH Press). Other regular groups that meet (now online through Zoom) to edit poems are “The Inconvenients.” and a large and experienced group that John Reibetanz facilitates out of Victoria University at UofT. And finally, for the past 8 or so years, four of us who stared writing together after breakfast in High Park’s Grenadier Restaurant now meets on Zoom (no breakfast, alas).
Each of these groups has provided invaluable support and learning, and as I said, motivation to keep writing.