Where do you draw the most inspiration for your writing?
I mostly draw inspiration from people and events in my life (which is why ¾ of my poems in the last month have been about my partner.) Sometimes though, a particular song, poem, or other such thing will spark my creative interest. When I get stuck, I typically wander around in the woods, sit in Panera for an all-day caffeine-fueled writing frenzy, or try something to shake up my routine. (Note: I highly recommend getting on a random city bus and seeing where it takes you, driving to the nearest park or elementary school playground at some odd hour of the night, and/or taking off on a road trip for a few days, all of which provide some fresh fun and adventure and, as a byproduct, fresh inspiration.)
What challenges do you face when writing a poem?
Hanif Abdurraqib once tweeted “I often think the hardest part of writing for me is the feeling I get after finishing something, wondering how I’m going to do it again.” Neil Hilborn responded in a quote tweet saying “I think the hardest part of writing for me is coming up with ideas that aren’t bad.” I distinctly tend towards Hilborn’s dilemma. Getting started (and convincing myself that whatever I write may not be complete garbage) is always the hardest part. Once I have solid traction on the poem and how I can get the poem to accomplish what I want it to, things get a lot easier. That is of course, until someone has edit suggestions that require restructuring the entire poem.
Have you ever found yourself stuck on a piece of your work? If so, what methods help you get around this?
I tend to give the poem a rest and come back to it later with a fresh perspective. If I’m really excited about a poem (or on a deadline) and want to get it written soon, I’ll sometimes solicit the advice of writer friends or completely rewrite the poem from scratch to find another way in. I do have a sizable “drafts” folder of abandoned half-poems though, so maybe I’m not the best person to be giving advice on this.
What made you first want to start writing poetry?
I was apparently writing rhyming couplets in elementary school. Who knows what an elementary schooler was doing writing poetry, but I started seriously writing again in college first as a way to work through my own thoughts, then as a way to connect and share with other people. Poetry is an amazing tool for sharing perspectives and creating empathy with people who are very different from each other because you can say things in poetry that are too intense or personal for everyday conversations with strangers.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in writing poetry? (maybe something you didn’t know when you started but now know)
I was talking with the Lansing Poet Laureate the other day and he gave me the advice that I should always have work out for submission. Always is a strong word, and not always feasible for those of us who aren’t poet laureates, but I think that mindset of sharing work often (even just with a group of friends) is important for getting work out there. And getting work out there is a good confidence boost that maybe not all of your poems are complete trash.
Related to that, I’ve been hugely influenced by my writer friends. It’s important to me to have people to bounce ideas off of, get ideas from, and share inspiration, struggles, and plenty of rejections with. The best and most unexpected part of sharing work for me is the community and friends I’ve found through writing. If there’s one thing I would say to someone starting out, it would be go to open mics and talk to the people there (and join a writing group if you can find one around you.) I probably wouldn’t be writing with such enthusiasm and confidence now if it weren’t for the support of the people on my slam team or those who complimented my poems at my first few open mics and encouraged me to keep writing.