Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
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back DOROTHY CHAN

Keeping the Spark Alive: Writing as a Lifelong Process

Writing is a lot like falling in love . . . you just have to keep the spark alive. Similar to infatuation, poetry should build upon rush and immediacy. It’s important to keep the reader interested, not only with your whole body of work but also within the individual poem itself. As my former mentor, Alberto Ríos taught me, “The best line of the poem should be the line the audience is reading.” Good lines tease the reader, making him or her beg for more. At the same time, great lines are complete enough in themselves. They are full. They are complex. They are hearty with emotion. And similar to a love story, the poet’s relationship with the page stems from determination to make it work. Admittedly, there are days when I cannot even write one line, but on those days I make sure I continue to take notes to add to my process. This is the part that’s key: excitement cannot occur every day of the relationship, but taking notes and “thinking like a writer” fuels the spark, and as a result, the minute the passion hits, it’s good and gets the job done . . . and I want more.

Clearly, my creative process stems from passion. In order to create passion, I need to have passion around me. What other writers deem “distraction,” I call passion. I love working in noisy places—it’s nice to have interesting individuals around. I also love having multiple tabs open on my laptop: art blogs, Tumblr, fashion inspiration, museum websites, etc. All these images that update constantly keep my writing relevant and cultural and beautiful. The ekphrastic should not be taken for granted—and if you look closely, it’s found in almost everything. I also tend to work a lot with repetition: it’s not that a lot of lines in my work repeat, it’s that when I like a line I type it over and over again until I can “feel out” the next line. After all, even if lines are strong individually, one line of a poem does lead to the next line, and I need to “feel” that relationship between them in order to make my poem believable. Poems are built on conviction.

And no relationship is complete with conviction. Conviction gives us faith and understanding and strength, all the building blocks to a great poem. All great poems are love stories.  


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