Q&A: Why do you write?

Last week, I did my first poetry reading to mark the release of my two poetry collections, Separation Anxiety and Journalism. The turnout was small (it was a school/work night, after all), but it made for a more casual, intimate evening—and the moon, which had been covered by clouds the night before, was fully visible rising above the lake.

One of my friends took the opportunity to ask questions about this latest venture of mine. After answering, I thought that it might be a good idea to include this information on my web site.

The first question: 

Why do you write?

The first response that usually comes to mind is ‘because I have to’. Although it would be a truthful answer, in that writing fulfills an essential need for me, it doesn’t reveal much.

The fuller answer (the one that I gave the other night) is that writing is a way for me to make sense of things—what is going on in the world around me, what is happening in my life, what I’m feeling, and so on. This is especially true of poetry. When I participated in National Poetry Writing Month last year, while my divorce was still pending, my poems revealed much more about what was going on with me than did my regular journal entries. Whatever kept me from fully expressing myself when simply writing about the day was not present (or was at least less present) when I was writing that day’s poem.

Sometimes, a phrase enters my thoughts, and I want to see where it will take me. (I will elaborate on this in a future post.)

I also enjoy the creative challenge of expressing thoughts and emotions with just a few words. When I am talking, or just writing as I am right now, I tend to go off on tangents; on many occasions, in fact, I have had friends interrupt me because I was straying too far from my original point. When I am writing poetry, though, I strive for simplicity and economy, using only the words needed to express the thought and/or maintain the internal rhythm of the poem.

(13 October 2014)