I often think I dream more when I am awake than when I am asleep. All my ghosts and all the monsters I’ve dreamt up tell me things about myself and of the world, things I don’t fully understand. I write to understand.
I keep a notebook, write sporadically throughout the day, and if I’m lucky, I get a day or two to dedicate fully to writing. I never know the outcome of those days. Sometimes I feel I have done something worthwhile, and other days I’m beaten black and blue, but that just makes me anxious to return to it.
It’s important for me to shut out the outside world as much as possible. Music (usually instrumental) is a good way to mask the outside noises and keep me focused.
Research is very important. I spend as much time doing research and reading articles as I do writing. No matter how dream-like my poems might get, they all have to have a grain of truth to them. Otherwise, they can feel hollow.
Reading is important to all writers, but equally important to me is film. Film feeds me imagery I can’t always get from reading. Due to my poor working memory I will often have to read a paragraph or a page twice just to retain it. Reading is not a soothing activity, it’s a lot of work. But I can analyse a scene in a movie and pull from it all the elements that make it seem real: light; shadow; colour; temperature; motion; sound; and camera angles. Not all these elements will appear on the page, but they’re all in the mixing pot. If I can’t visualize the poem, it will never work, but I give every idea a chance to live.
I also keep a sketch pad on my desk. When I’m having difficulty describing something in words, I draw it. It also allows me to clear my head when writing begins to drive me a little mad. I am not an artist by any means, but I find it incredibly freeing.
It is impossible for me to ever truly leave the world of my imagination. I’m always thinking of something that leads back to writing or film. But I do fear growing bored. I fear losing my curiosity. Without curiosity, the imagination dies. So I’ve surrounded myself with things that have inspired, thrilled and terrified me. A piece of art, a toy, a model or a little knick knack I’ve collected — it’s all there to keep the blood of the imagination circulating.
I know I am done with a poem when I feel relief.
Anton Pooles was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia and raised in Toronto. He is a graduate of Humber’s Film program and the University of Toronto’s Creative Writing program. His debut chapbook Monster 36 was published with Anstruther Press in November 2018. He watches far too many movies and is obsessed with things that don’t exist.