Contributors on Process
Since 2007, we have invited contributors featured in our annual Introductions Loop to comment on their creative process. This year, Joshua Bennett, Anders Carlson-Wee, Michelle E. Iwen, Celeste Lipkes, Jon Chaiim McConnell, Kat Meads, and Emily Vizzo step up to the task.
Joshua Bennett hopes to bring a “fresh choreography” to language and image, and his poems become “extended meditations on a . . . set of figures that would traditionally be considered unworthy of thought, or philosophy, or lyric.” His work necessitates both a serious, deeply felt responsibility and a playful willingness to go where the poem leads, treating the stanza as “a room big enough to fit a world inside.”
Anders Carlson-Wee seeks out inspiration for his poetry “on the streets,” interacting with people, listening, observing, all to move himself closer to a place where “the wildness of the world flips on your senses.” Editing happens at home, but creation needs a jolt of something new, so that “the electricity turns inward, the wheels start to spin, and slowly, you begin to hear the music.”
Michelle E. Iwen finds new ways of imagining humanity’s age-old fears in her short story, “The Joy of Baking.” She conceptualizes the driving narrative force as plague-causing bacteria, “devoid of the emotion and desire that motivates a traditional human character” but a device that speaks to the critical, emotional journey of her protagonist. For Iwen, a story arrives when an image begins “rattling around” in her head, and the writing process is one of joyful discovery.
Celeste Lipkes works to crystallize language, to “whittle [it] into a more precise shape.” In her poetry, she must both articulate and imagine a complete, cohesive world, one that lives through inhabited details. Her work might comfort and confront by turns; as she says, “I want to bring you someplace painful, and I want to lead you out.”
Jon Chaiim McConnell develops his craft in service of the initial spark of inspiration, the moment or image that is so “evocative” or “unusual” it compels him to attempt to recreate it. This, he says, “is what I think I get out of fiction: the pleasure of replicating a pattern of thought.” He marshals plot, character, and tone to capture that initial feeling, but writing comes with a sense of spontaneity, too, patience to allow the story “to mature within.”
Kat Meads explores the limits of form in “P’town Triolets for the Poet Maisel (1942–2006),” using famous lines from other writers to prompt and frame her writing. This call-and-response layering allows her to explore “the struggle to express [a worldview] in a way that is both insular enough to be particular and sufficiently outward-looking to address something of the human predicament,” which for her is an “interesting,” and perhaps necessary, challenge.
Emily Vizzo feels compelled to embody many different perspectives, her imagination skipping from predator to prey and everything in between. “Our brains are wired for poetry,” she says, and poetry teaches us how to fear and how to hope, “a fence that opens itself in both directions.” In that sense, Vizzo’s poetry guides us through a scene from every possible vantage point, showing us new ways of seeing.