Friday, April 19, 2019

My Writing Day: James Roome

I'll keep this brief. Or at least, I'll try, because when I sit down in front of a white page, I never know what will happen. Sometimes I have a vague plan, sometimes just a title, sometimes nothing but an urge to write (though these times are often the worst). 

When I sit down to write I will typically limber up with a few sketches that may contain the odd interesting image, but don't necessarily constitute a whole poem. After the initial disappointment (or the empty feeling you get when reading back over work that is in no way successful), I will sometimes hit upon something real. Invariably, my subconscious fills that part in. I like to follow ideas down into it until I'm surprising myself. This method is definitely inspired by Frank O'Hara's idea in ‘Personism’ that you have to take chances in your poetry. You have to take the risk of being illogical in your choices (I'm paraphrasing) of word, line and image. When I hit on something I keep digging (now I'm borrowing from Heaney!) until I reach the bottom. That moment when you stick your spade in and it hits rock. Then it's finished. On the way down, some weird stuff can happen.

My digging tends to happen all over the house in snatched moments, or very early in the morning/late at night. We have a three-year-old son who likes to press the buttons on the laptop. Also, my job as a secondary school teacher keeps me very busy. There really is no time whatsoever during a typical working day to dedicate to writing (there's hardly time to eat some days), so during the week I will typically write between 8-10pm. At weekends I can occasionally take a whole day and dedicate it to poetry, but more usually I will be up at 5am (sometimes 3, as I am today, though that's more due to insomnia than compulsion) and work until mid-morning. By necessity, therefore, my poems come quick and are shaped by life. I rarely spend time on craft in an initial draft, with the exception of sonnets, which I love and am constantly trying to write to varying degrees of success. I like to listen to the sound of rainfall whilst I write, so I usually find one of those ten-hour videos on YouTube and plug in.  

When I am stuck, I look to the bookshelf. Writing should be a conversation with contemporaries, and I find the work of other poets to be the most inspiring thing. When I'm in a rut I look to O'Hara and Koch, who reassure me. More recently I have discovered the work of Martin Stannard. He is widely published in the UK but, despite having studied an MA in poetry and having been relatively engaged with contemporary poetry for the last few years, he had slipped through my net. His collection, 'poems for the young at heart' through Leafe Press, is fantastic. I also love the work of Serena Mayer (Broken Sleep) for the surprising things she does with sentences, leaving them half-finished and subject or objectless, and Phoebe Power on Carcanet. There are many other poets who help me, but these are the particular names that spring to mind at this moment because they’ve been gathering on my bedside table at night and whispering ideas in my ear.

Once a poem's initial draft is done, editing is usually a process of minute changes and deletion. I recently introduced punctuation back into my poetry (I found myself labouring over systems to indicate clause shifts and insert pauses, when in fact one already exists!) so I'll be fiddling with commas and full stops for a while, deleting sections that don't add anything or are blatantly 'poetic', chopping up lines and also ensuring the narrative holds water - my poems almost always rely on narratives for their drive. Then I save. I save, save and save again. Then print off a hard copy. The hard copy is the final stage of my editing process. I like to scribble all over it. Seeing its physical form gives a fresh perspective. You notice things that don’t work; metaphors that are mixed. I re-edit and it’s done. Until I edit it again, that is.

Not really a day at all then. More a collection of moments. I have tried not doing it. Logically, poetry is an inconvenience. An extravagance. I suppose that’s why I’m always desperately trying to be more illogical.

James Roome received an MA in Poetry from MMU and is based in Manchester, UK. His work has appeared in Magma, Tears in the Fence, Ink, Sweat and Tears and the Wordlife anthology. His first chapbook, Bull, is out now from The Red Ceilings Press.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Andrea Lambert: my (small press) writing day

I am a nocturnal Schizoaffective on Disability. I create free Internet content when symptoms permit. No job or kids. At 6:30 pm, I wake in my lesbian lover’s downtown studio. She is gone. The sheets are blue and rumpled. Her night shift at Tesla began half an hour ago.

I text her, “Hi love, just woke. All good w/you?” She replies, “Not really. Anxiety. Frustrated.” I text,  “Oh honey, sorry. Kiss kiss, hug hug, and a good shag when you get home.” My partner is a butch lesbian. In writing I refer to her as Jasper. She identifies as female. Dresses and presents as male. Gender is a social construct. I am a cis woman. Femme because I choose to be. I rumple through clothes on the floor. Put on black Adidas legging and sports bra. Ivory lace fringed lingerie top. Bahomet pendant on red ribbon. Top Tomato lipstick.

I check my iPad. CNN headlines. My Twitterfriend’s bejeweled yellow acrylics. Adam and Eve strap on email. I  emailed my April Entropy Food column last week. Called “Dining with a Cursed Bloodline: The Biggest Little Sturm Und Drang.” I wonder when I’ll hear from the editor.

Search the kitchen for caffeine. Gulp last dregs of a Rockstar energy drink. Pour a cup of coffee in a Duncan Donuts plastic big gulp. Listen. It’s raining. Eight pm. Completely dark outside the cracked open window. Whatever it may bring, let the night begin.

I’m this studio’s “writer in residence,” I joke. If I can’t travel to or afford pro residencies? I’ll DIY one alone all night in my girlfriend’s apartment.

Where to start? Poet Ingrid Calderon-Collins asked me for art and writing for her zine. I pitched one of my NSFW series of oil paintings with queer erotica. Maybe. I feel like making literary videos tonight for my channel: Video my essay “The Mentally Ill and Guns,” from now defunct mag Queer Mental Health. It drags, dated 2012. Next, I read “Stoned Crow Siren,” flash fiction scantily clad for the camera. It’s a trick, Eye candy snares the the viewer into listening to my words.

I did a fashion interview recently on “Apparel for Authors” Instagram. Thanks to Marcelle Heath. I skimmed the email directions. Instead of picking three questions, answered all fourteen. The full text is on the iCloud linked to my iPhone. I love Apple products. Drape a white sheet over a chair. Sit on the floor. Film the full interview for YouTube in my iPad.

I sit in the claw foot bathtub. Stretch one leg out. Fall in. Begin shooting “Bathtub Bedtime Stories,” an ambitious project. Serializing my many unpublished manuscripts for YouTube. I start with Scaffolding, a nineties punk prequel to my debut Jet Set Desolate. Get halfway through the first chapter before the bathtub hurts too much to sit.
To decompress, I watch Rock of Love. Add a few sentences to another piece of flash fiction. Finish the whole pot of coffee. Listen to the rain. It’s hot on the bed. Cold rain outside. Sprawled nude, I feel like a Nan Goldin photograph.

At 11:00 pm, I take psych meds. Antidepressants: two Prozac and a Wellbutrin. Mood regulator: Trileptal. Antipsychotic: Abilify. Klonopin for my anxiety. I am on day two without my usual PTSD medication: Prazosin. Vlog my lack of symptoms daily. In a black leather jacket unzipped to below side boob.

At two am, I text Jasper, “Hey baby, how’s it going?” She ’s hanging in there. I reply, “You can do it! Go, fight, win!” My iPhone beeps with the motion sensor home security camera. I review Day Brief footage. Two cats pace fast by the door. I put in AirPods. Listen to Cardi B on Spotify: “Washpoppin.” “Stripper Hoe.”

I review iPad footage. List new video titles to edit together on the laptop at home with iMovie. Delete rapid slurred speech. Note pacing. Inflection. Ad hoc sets. Non distracting white backgrounds. Clothing. See my body thicken. Heedlessly devouring quart after quart of ice cream with Jasper. A joy I must stop. Now that I know what does and doesn’t work, I am inspired for more.

I discover the 2018, “Easy Access Poetry,” exchange with British writer Chris Walsh in the iCloud back catalogue. Glow up again. Read poems in the bathtub. Bare porcelain cools off the bathroom. Bedroom hot with an old fashioned heater clunking against the rain.

I finally find the sweet spot for recording video in Jasper’s apartment. Sitting on the floor in front of the built in mirror in the white wall. Camera propped up with books of r.m. drake’s poetry. Filming from the bed. Reading the short story “Board-Box.” The editor at Two Hawks Quarterly solicited something edgy.

I film the first two chapters of an unpublished novel called, “Grieving Through American Horror Story.”  It has been seething inside me for some time. “Trying to claw it’s way out,” like witch Mallory claws out of her identity spell in AHS: Apocalype. Presenting this book serialized on YouTube will be labor intensive, high tech art therapy. Coming to terms with the suicide death of my domestic partner. Showing my innermost pain to the whole Internet. To lay that burden down. Perhaps this will give me the closure I need. After seven years of brutal grief and mourning. To reopen my heart to this new love.

“This is how I do,” millennial electroclash trio Fannypack sang. I am spent. Feel triumphant to have had such a huge creative burst while over here. Last week I anesthetized with TV. Forgot who I was. What I could do. Felt like a deadbeat. Wondered when I would create again. What to do next? In this small, dark apartment that has become a different sort of studio. I will definitely need the good hard shag I hope Jasper gives me when she gets home. I wonder if I should forge onward to Chapter Three of AHS: Grief? Or take a bath?

The pale light of dawn peers through the white curtains at five am. Jasper gets home in two hours. I’ve lost count of how many carrots, apples and peanuts I’ve eaten. I wonder idly if Jasper will bring home that cannabis vape pen she promised to pick up. Feel like relaxing for a bit. To put myself in the right mood to hang out. Jasper texts me her friend is driving her home. She will get home in thirty minutes. I am thrilled. Put all the apartment “props" I’ve been using back where they belong. Put my head down on the blue sheets. Close my eyes. I am still too manic to sleep.

At six am, Jasper comes home from work. She takes off her binding shirt shirt and sports bra. Sits on the chair with a beer. After finishing brushes her teeth. So she won’t taste like alcohol to sober me. Puts some Pandora reggae on the Roku. I am nude under ivory lace. Ruffle-butt black panties. We roll around on the bed making out. Her magic hands finally relax my tense body. Tame my creative mania. Finally, she gets up to take a shower. I eat an apple on the bed. Juice runs down my hand.

I can tell the video clips are finally how I want to present my writing. As a scarlet lipped, glowing, blue white haired phantasm. My body aches. Jasper rubs icy hot ointment on my sore shoulders. It feels amazing. She makes each of us a microwave hot three cheese and kale bake. Paper plate. Bowl. Plastic spoon. We watch part of Practical Magic in bed, kissing and fondling. She falls asleep to cartoons. Cuddles up in a blanket like a burrito. Snores.

I sit on the maroon chair under a sheet and spider blanket. Against the open window’s chill. Tired, yet strangely alert. Write this piece while it is still fresh. Check my email. Read Psychopomp Magazine’s kind rejection email to my essay, “Ode to Leggings as a Feminist Act,” for their reprints issue. Delete emails from: Wired, Petco, Yandy lingerie, NaNoWriMo, CVS, The Mighty, Birchbox, Tumblr and Dior. Scan the Inked Magazine email. Just in case.

At nine am I put my head down. Close my eyes. Sleep, deep and dreamlessly.

Andrea Lambert is the author of Jet Set Desolate, Lorazepam & the Valley of Skin: Extrapolations on Los Angeles and the chapbooks G(u)ilt and Lexapro Diary. Anthologies: Impact, Golden State 2017, Haunting MusesWriting the Walls Down and elsewhere. Her food column “Dining with a Cursed Bloodline.” appears monthly in Entropy Magazine. Writing in Luna Luna, OCCULUM, Grimoire and elsewhere. Twitter:

Monday, April 15, 2019

Kimberly Campanello: My (small press) writing day

My writing days have evolved according to the kind of work I’m doing. I wrote the entirety of my first book in public spaces: a now-closed café in Miami Beach, the Kingfisher chipper in Dublin, and a series of cafés in Andalucía. My recent 796-page conceptual and visual poetry book seemed to require the use of an entire, preferably king-sized, bed to spread pages out on and a printer to do continual tests. So I used many beds and many printers along the way for that one. My current process is more rooted. I’m fortunate in that in the summer and days when I have no university teaching I have whole days, sometimes in a row, to write. I also use a lot of weekends to write. I find that if I’m teaching or marking on a particular day, I’m worthless creatively. When I have a dedicated writing day, I get up when I feel like it. I avoid making any kind of social or other plans for that day beyond the foods I want to eat and a vague sense of when I want to eat them. I then fairly compulsively clear the areas I want to use – the dining table, the armchair, the back garden ‘bistro’ set surrounded by laundry if the weather’s decent. I move from seat to seat and scribble something barely legible in pencil in my notebook. If it’s worthy, I type it up that day, or the next day if I’m not too sure about it. Sometimes I’ve accumulated scribblings in my notebook from my train commute to Leeds, and I type them up and play around with them to see what they are like. I take frequent breaks to do housework that  has accumulated. I know some writers, particularly women writers, think this is a bad thing, but I actually find it useful for feeling into the language space I’m in on that particular day. I grew up working in my family’s restaurant in Indiana, and my imagination is to some extent activated by repetitive physical work. I’ve found that having the freedom to move between that kind work and writing work in the space of an hour is ideal for my creativity. The best writing days are the ones in which I ‘get it’ in the first part of the day and I feel a sense of closure or not needing to go on. I then find I have a day off to do something else. That’s what happened today, so I wrote this!

Kimberly Campanello’s poetry books and pamphlets include ConsentImagines, Strange Country (on the sheela-na-gig stone carvings), and Hymn to Kālī (her version of the Karpūrādi stotra). In April 2019, zimZalla Avant Objects released MOTHERBABYHOME, a 796-page book of conceptual and visual poetry on the St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. Also in April, above/ground press published her chapbook running commentary along the bottom of the tapestry. She is Programme Leader for Creative Writing and a member of the Poetry Centre in the School of English at the University of Leeds. She lives in York, UK.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Ariel Dawn : My writing day

It begins at three a.m. with jazz, blues or classical, candlelight, black coffee. Merlin is rather nocturnal, he says goodnight to my morning. Angel sleeps well, yet blankets and Jellycats fall away, I tuck her in until seven. Cat, our grey kitten, joins me now, to climb walls, velvet drapes, bookshelves and towers of books, stare outside, dream. I write in my bedroom by a tall casement window, the oak tree, the streetlight, a south-west corner behind a folding screen of torn rice paper, an old dark desk. My chair was taken from the head of the dining room table. I write in my nightgown; smoke hawthorn, rose, motherwort, rosemary (Green Moon Herbals); burn cedar, sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh; drink from bone china cups; journal and work on prose poems with a black Parker fountain pen, Moleskines, Rider-Waite Tarot cards, Froud and Rackham faery oracles and a MacBook Air. I type out notes, condense, extend, whisper lines under my breath. When it’s light I’ll read the cards of the day and wander Victoria’s heart or practice yoga before returning to bed with books. At noon I may nap; then, with black tea, return to poems, printing any that feel done, revising them on paper, until Angel returns from school and there is life to take care of and any submissions or letters or more reading. This is a lovely writing day; other days I remain in bed with a novel and only write a little in the margins.

Ariel Dawn lives in Victoria, British Columbia with her son and daughter. She spends her time writing, reading, studying Tarot, and working on her first collection of prose poems. Recent work appears in Guest, Train, and Litro.