When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover you wanted to write poems?
I first encountered poetry through Dr. Seuss books, and through Mother Goose nursery rhymes. I started writing poems when I was about eight years old, in the third grade. I was very fortunate to have an encouraging teacher (Mrs Cummings from Forest Road School). I was a bit of a rebel, and would finish in class assignments (such as solving math problems) before most of the other students in the classroom, so my teacher allowed me to pace the radiators in the classroom to compose poems. Most of my early poems rhymed, and I covered subjects of love, marriage, friendship, and rainy days, as well as topics in science and social studies I was learning about in school. Ever since, I was compelled to write poetry, although my writing has changed very much since my early start.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I used to write early in the morning, and still keep paper and pen by the bedside, but these days I do not keep to much of a routine. I attend a weekly workshop at my local library, and I find this keeps me writing at least on a weekly basis. One of my favorite places to write, though, is when I am out listening to music. I spend much of my summer out on a lake inside a tiny house that is a houseboat, (Wake with the Sun) rocking gently with the water. I am in the houseboat as I write this, listening to bird song, and lapping water, and the whirr of motors. I find this a very comforting place to think and to write.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
My poems usually start with ideas --- something I would like to write about. It could be something I experienced, and interaction with someone, a memory, or something in the news. Sometimes I start with a phrase I hear on the radio. In the workshop I attend most regularly, each week we examine a group of poems that are written with a similar perspective, be it voice, manner of description, or some other poetic move or technique. For example, we might look at one-sentence poems, or sonnets, or narrative poems. We then use these models for the scaffolding of the first draft of a poem. Drafts of quite a few of the poems in Intimacy with the Wind, as well as in my first book, Mother, One More Thing, started in workshops I have attended, including the one at my local library.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
There are so many, it's difficult to name just one. Two living poets I admire very much are Sharon Olds and Dorianne Laux. I have also taken workshops with other poets who have influenced my writing, poets such as Mark Doty, Martha Collins, Fred Marchant, Gail Mazur, Terrance Hayes, Carl Phillips, and others.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was it a project book? etc.
Many of the poems in Intimacy with the Wind were influenced my nomadic off-the-grid living in a solar-powered houseboat on Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain is a very big lake, in fact, some refer to it as the sixth great lake of this country. The winds of Lake Champlain prevail mostly from the south, which was our good fortune when we were headed north, up the lake, but not so fun if we were trying to travel upwind, or through a strong crosswind. Our little electric motor that runs off the solar panels and 5 kwh battery has the equivalent of about 9 horsepower at full speed, and our boat (a pontoon platform with a tiny house on top) has a lot of sail, so if the winds are against us, we have a lot of trouble moving around.
The summer we were on Lake Champlain, I was also reading McCullough's biography of the Wright brothers (and sister), and I was touched by Wilbur Wright's declaration that in order to understand flight, one had to be intimate with the wind. I thought about our encounters with the wind on the lake, how we feared the wind, how the wind put us in our place, how much the wind taught us, and this inspired me to title one of my poems Intimacy with the Wind, and this seemed like a natural choice for the book title as well.
Other overarching themes in the book are invasive plant species of New England, family, love, death, and the environment, in general.
The assembling of the poems in the book was an iterative process. I would not exactly call this a book project, except that the experience of living on Lake Champlain in the solar-powered boat, Wake with the Sun, influenced so many of the poems I wrote during and afterward, I thought I had the basis of a themed collection.
Read Intimacy with the Wind below and hear Carla Schwartz reading it as well here:
Intimacy with the Wind
Speaking of the infinite,
the parade of yachts,
not a parade, the armada
should have been a clue,
while, in golden oblivion,
anchored in the lee at the lip of a bay, we ate our sandwiches,
until a plate slid off the table and we looked out the window at the blackening sky.
The williwaw that rushed in with the distant storm — horror on our faces
horror in the water — thrashed the boat wildly.
Shoes, chairs —
waves swept anything not tied down off the deck,
and we wondered if we would tip. The pummeling rain made for shelter every time we opened the door.
Then, the realization we were adrift.
The wind that threatened to crash us into a cliff
almost broke us up
until the moment we engaged the motor and found out who we were.