blog tour: my writing process

i’ve been nominated by my good friend justin million to take part in this blog tour series about my writing process. i was nominated along with two talented ottawa poets, marilyn irwin & jeff blackman, whose blogs you should definitely go read right now (not just for their writing tour posts, and not just because they’re my friends!).

1. What am I working on?

currently i’m forcing myself through napowrimo, so i’ve been writing and posting a poem once a day on this blog, every day, for the month of april. i wouldn’t say they’re great poems (or even good ones) (yet), but i really needed something to encourage me to start writing again. even if it’s just a line or two i can turn into something else later.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

not really sure how to answer this question. like marilyn said, which genre? i think my poetry differs from other poetry because it’s my poetry and not someone else’s, and that’s pretty much it.

3. Why do I write what I do?

when i was a lot younger i wrote just to get thoughts on paper. in high school the only real poems i wrote were for english assignments. i didn’t take poetry writing seriously until i was around 20.

now it’s about remembering. and documenting. i have a terrible memory (like, really, i mean i can’t remember even simple things i have been taught over and over again), but i want to remember everything. that’s not to say that all of my poems are written about a personal experience, because most of them aren’t actually “about” my own life at all. but i always include something, even just a single line or word, that connects me to a particular moment. a smell, a sight, the way a man’s neck looked sunburned above his T-shirt in 2010.

i have this need to connect these insignificant moments to something else, something more important, to remember why they were so meaningful to me at the time. i would feel guilty forgetting and i would feel guilty obsessing, so i turn them into something else entirely and i know i won’t forget them.

4. How does your writing process work?

slowly, mostly, line by line. i like a line, i add to it later, i take something away, i re-write the added lines, i remove the original line altogether, i throw in words that don’t fit, i make them fit, i take my time. i’m still going back and changing poems i wrote five years ago.

i never commit myself to anything. i’ve taken lines from old poems and put them into short fiction. i’ve broken longer pieces of prose into multiple short poems. and i read, read, re-read, edit, change, edit. then i force myself to stop and it goes on the blog.

but that process can take years. it’s rare that i’m comfortable with a poem within the first six months of its existence, although that happens too.

that process has been abandoned for napowrimo, obviously. i write a line and then i write another line. i go back and re-write, but too quickly; i throw in words that don’t fit and then neglect to make them fit. it’s still just a process.

-

thanks for reading my blog tour.! i was supposed to nominate some people to continue the blog tour next week, and i tried, really. but the people i asked had either already been asked, or they didn’t want to share their blogs, or i didn’t ask for a bio in time and i have no idea if they are actually planning to participate at all (chris…).

instead, maybe you can visit both marilyn’s and jeff’s blogs and see whose blogs they have nominated for the tour.

also, please visit rachael simpson’s blog. she originally nominated me for this blog tour and i don’t think i even responded to her because i was so busy and it seemed so complicated. it wasn’t until justin suggested it that i took the time to figure it out.

sorry rachael.

jwm.

my best childhood friend died on christmas day. he was a boy, but he was my best friend. my family went to the visitation back home, but i couldn’t be there. i loved him deeply, very strangely, and first. sometimes i even thought that when we grew up, when we were older, in high school maybe, we’d date. i remember a time when he was the most important person in my world. by high school we’d drifted apart of course, and barely spoke.

still. his death has broken me in a way i can’t describe to my family, or friends, or boyfriend, or anyone. only he would know the things we shared as kids that we promised would stay important forever. the things that didn’t.

i miss his existence.

that’s really the most i can say.

more chairs.

well it finally happened
and i live alone.

it took me a year but it happened. just me, and gunther of course. and king julien & mort, who survived yet another move and who have been noticeably upset with me ever since. i’m giving them some time to cool off.

i keep hearing that things will get better, that i’ll have a fresh start. i’ve heard it so many times and fallen for the promise so many times that i have nearly abandoned all hope. i’ve never really been much of a “hopeful” girl anyway, but i am easily tricked. friends tricked me, boys tricked me. and my own blind faith in myself and in others tricked me, too.

so here i am.
alone, where i should have been a year ago. what i wanted so badly last february. but i didn’t really want it, not yet, not then. because i tried for something else when i should not have. and that’s that. i chose to do it, somewhere. somehow i made decisions.

so whatever. it’s not like i actually give a fuck, obviously, about anything, or about tricks or those boys or those friends or a hat or etymology or deconstruction or getting thrown under the bus. because to care now i’d have to have cared then. and they’d be kidding themselves if they even briefly thought i did. which they know as well as i do.

i’m close,
to giving up. but not quite there. i have no hope, maybe, but it isn’t hope i need. it all works out, it’s all good, whatever. hakuna matata, life goes on. i’m all right. i’m always all right. not that anyone asked.

but then
they cared for me about as much
as i cared for them.

right?

house.

there is a spoon in my house that isn’t really a spoon at all. it isn’t mine; it was just here when i moved in & probably belongs to my roommate.

anyway the spoon is mostly flat. it still functions and everything. i don’t use spoons very often but it will hold my cheerios or my coffee if it has to. it’s slightly awkward but at least it functions. it just isn’t really a spoon.

and it’s christmas now, and it isn’t like last christmas. last year i had an apartment with a boyfriend and a christmas tree and coloured lights in the windows. everyone’s gifts were wrapped weeks ahead of time. we made hot chocolate and bought candy canes and put cards in the christmas tree. i made new friends and plans to spend my holiday with them. i ended up getting sick and spending three days alone on the couch with no one to help me feel better. it was a sign, of course.

this year i bought half my gifts at gas stations on my way back to hamilton. i didn’t take any time off. everything is simple. i don’t have any loyalties or promises or responsibilities. i have my neighbour feeding my fish, who are my best friends now. i don’t have any reminders of any of the people who have come and vanished from my life between last christmas and this one. except a slinky on my shelf, because it’s cool. i miss them all the time and try to convince myself at least once a day that i don’t because i can’t, i can’t miss anything because it is giving a part of myself away, because i have tough skin, because that layer of skin is strong but thin. and of course i don’t care. i just eat cheerios and drink beer and wear comfort sweaters and pretend.

so this christmas is christmas, again. and it’s all scattered and fucked up and different, but it’s the way it should be. last year i was too prepared. trying too hard for something i didn’t really want. and so i got sick. and another year over and a new one just begun. and my heart and my head are still exactly where they were last year. and i don’t mind and won’t apologize (to myself).

and it’s like a flat spoon in the drawer.
it shouldn’t work but it does.

merry christmas friends.

jokes.

i made him a gift but i’ll
be in a silent backseat, the glass
has been given, the windshield
is already cracked

it’s getting colder all the time. i bought mittens because last year i remember finding comfort there. and because i think maybe i could use some comfort. i’ve never been very good at telling jokes. i forget them too easily.

i don’t go to the canal anymore, but i stop by the river once in awhile to see the swans and think fondly of summer, which makes me think fondly of spring, which makes me think fondly of winter, and mittens, and brings me comfort.

it has been six months.

i’m apartment hunting in my dreams. i’m not afraid anymore to live on my own; i need it. no one wants to be around me or suggests that they might. i don’t care. i don’t suggest that i might want to be around them either. i’m not good at jokes. i cast aside the things that have the potential to nurture me. i am cold. i don’t care. it is nice.

there’s a blanket i sometimes prefer to sleep beneath, but it’s out in the closet. my bed feels good the way it is. still, everything has come to this, to what i envisioned when he asked me, “what do you want?”

sometimes he’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

new list.

reasons i’m not giving up.

1. i got rid of the hat.
2. i have a date this week.
3. i have only a few friends, and i treat most of them like shit, but they are still my friends. they are always there when it’s really needed.
4. i’m working.
5. it’s fall!
6. i’m going to stop drinking (as much).
7. i have the best pros & cons list ever.
8. the terrible day i was dreading finally came and it wasn’t so bad after all.
9. i love my room & bed.
10. at least i have gunther.

strangers.

in a memory, i didn’t live here yet. i was pregnant and i was single and i had a terrible wardrobe. i was in love with two boys and i couldn’t bring either of them with me (if i had wanted to). i was about to give up my car, my driver’s license, my job, my friends, my life. i needed to schedule an abortion. i drank tim horton’s instead of starbucks. i depended entirely on six packs & cigarettes.

i got lost. i drove right past what i now consider my favourite place, my go-to place. i turned around at the stadium, recognizing the structure from a photograph. i made my way. and then i met you. somehow, even in a memory, i met you.

and in a memory, i worked 10 hour shifts in a basement. i dyed my hair blonde, then dark brown. i broke my phone and lost all my phone numbers and assumed a new identity. i remembered you. i went blonde again. i moved into a new apartment with hardwood floors. i played house and did the dishes and the apartment burned down. i moved again and i remembered you. i had roommates and i fell hard, incredibly in love with white wine. and i eventually tore down the life i had created and moved into a new room.

that is when i let you in, asked you in. let memories fold over realities, let the lines blur. i tried and tried to keep remembering but the only you i see is in a classroom, spilling water on the floor.

so.
i’m sure that things have been worse before. much worse. if i remember correctly. but these are only memories; i might have made them up.

GPS.

i could never understand or find my way around the neighbourhood. i required far too much direction, instruction, someone to wait for me at the bus stop. life doesn’t favour dependency. not for me, or for anybody else. the gps is a big help but it isn’t enough. it doesn’t re-trace my steps for me, or place me back in a red-tile kitchen, popping champagne.

see, it’s like reading lips. i sometimes wish that nothing reminded me. or at least not everything. every written word is branded, as permanent as the silence of a trusted voice that has vanished, become mute. there is no familiar sound. there never was or has been. my brain is too simple, never looking for meaning, just words, only words. i sometimes wish that self-therapy was actually real, or that hot white tea can fix things.

at one point i remember being so sure
and i could point to faces, places on a map, to have them sketch directions. you’d kiss me for an answer with your hands around my fingers. that was nice. but that was a really long time ago now.

and i was wrong. and it’s fine, and i’ve become out of character instead. i don’t get lost as often anymore. i take back pain pills and leave too much coffee in the pot and am far too good for this, i dance alone and am special and i linger in doorways and get away with practically murder. i’ve barely been recognized, not for imperfections on my skin, only from afar or way too close for comfort. simple doesn’t come my way.

i try to believe that my gps was never skewed. a perspective blurred by beer in corners of strange, sometimes familiar bars. he unhooked everything, and i asked him to, under blooms my hinges from the stone, and that was years ago. attracting ants and spiders to a vine, he held on another day until there were none. he was flawless. he never gave me any trouble. not with sound, not with anything else.

i still trust his voice when i hear it, which isn’t something i had ever considered to be valuable before. when i was six years old i went out for dinner and never came home again, so i never got to say goodbye. and really, it’s not about unaligned neighbourhoods or kitchens or lip-reading. it’s about disappearance. i thought i would go home again. i didn’t know. i don’t trust vague departures. i linger. in doorways, or whatever. i’m terrified, almost all the time, and i get lost easily. steps can’t be re-traced and i don’t try. i know i’ll never know where i’ll end up, i know i’ll never get to say goodbye, and so i am abrupt sometimes and ask and tell when i’m not prompted.

everything is very simple.
i don’t know how to change my mind.

(dr. suess)

instincts.

i made a horrible mistake that was entirely preventable. i convinced myself it would be better to have you as friends. i thought it could be nice. i thought it would help me feel sane if i was all friendly and open and included in exchange for that. i cheated myself completely and became everything i’m not very good at. i let people into my home. i stayed late and shared cigarettes and told people things, secret things, and made myself vulnerable. i thought it could be nice.

i forgot that friends can abandon you, and will, once they’ve taken what they want from you. i forgot that there are no secrets, that they share everything they know of you. it makes for casual conversation. i forgot not to trust anyone, ever, or anything (scrape it off).

i spent three months destroying everything i’d spent three years building because i thought it could be fucking nice. it is ridiculously depressing. i don’t know what on earth i was fucking thinking. it was so much simpler when i used to use you and only showed up once a month.

never trust your instincts.
and never care about anyone. because no one cares about you.

at tables.

in the first couple weeks of my first year of university i saw the in/words office for the first time, and the defunct printer, and the ham sandwich that i think was justin’s. i sat in collett’s crowded 19th-floor office with her and pete, amanda, maria, justin, jeff, mark, cameron. i didn’t think i’d ever be at the point where i’d be leaving carleton. i tried to stay connected while a) being a part of blank page and b) being an isolationist. it wasn’t easy. if i had to do it again i’d do it all the same, but it wouldn’t be any easier knowing what i know now. you always think it will be… but a lot of the time that’s impossible.

i walked out the doors of the carleton university centre a few weeks ago and nearly got trampled by a group of what i can only assume were very important people. it was 7:30 and already dark. a few weeks ago that scared me as much as anything else (because i’m scared of everything). i thought about all the campus tramplers, everyone who’s in such a hurry to get in, get to class, get coffee, get out. not stay. i thought about december at midnight in front of the uc with pete and jon kerr and anshula, and a lot of cigarette smoke and lingering in the vacancy of campus exam period, even though it was cold and we could have gone home. they’re all gone now. i’m still here. it always smelled like indian food and beer, even long after the doors of mike’s place were closed, even out near the parking lot. the combined smell will follow me for a long time i’m sure, reminding me of smoking half-cigarettes in dumpsters, sitting on the laps of different boys sitting on milk crates in the garbage alley, dangling my feet off the ledge and justin walking me to cabs.

if not for justin, mike’s place and the in/words readings, in their many homes over the last three years, i just don’t know. i might be altogether gone, too. maybe not so much… geographically. but i’d have stayed in the west end and took the otrain to school and stopped submitting to in/words. i might have kept writing, because i don’t know if i know how to stop, but i wouldn’t be publishing. last night i was told, jokingly, that i’m just learning to share. there’s more truth to that than i might readily admit. see what i mean?

i read for the first time ever last night. more than three years since that first night at the avant-garde with anshula in 2007. people were nice to me, maybe because they thought they should be, but i’m an okay bs detector. detecting the bs isn’t what’s important, though. it’s everything else. even though it’s hard to tell most of the time, i’m happiest there, or when they’re here, or when i’m somewhere else with them.

at tables

there was that time, and
you’d think at
first it was isolated,
unusual, in the eeriest hours
of the night while
the apartment
slept, while bedsheets
were loved by slow pushes
of breath

it’s just like at tables,
old memories dug
scars into new
wood, attempts to
transcend an
era already escaped