Poet to Poet: Candelin Wahl and Lisa Ludden

Dear Candelin,

I just read your poem “Attending Murmurations Dance or Precarity,” and I thought it was beautiful. I was really interested in how each stanza worked like a sentence, like a complete thought, using the stanza and line breaks as punctuation really.

I was particularly drawn to the opening stanza: “how seamless the dancers lean in, float apart/their near collisions fluid as starlings/and swallows that swoop their way/to evening roost”.

Perhaps we should talk a little bit about what interests us in writing, or what we’re working on, or what we’re concerned with in poetics?

I look forward to talking with you.

Lisa

 

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for reaching out – and for your careful reading of my poem. I’m looking forward to sharing my own responses to your poems, as well as exchanging ideas and process notes

I have a daily journal practice that I’ve been keeping since 2012, and it’s been a godsend for helping me name and follow my creative priorities. I was converted to “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron six years ago and credit her insights for restarting my writing practice.

Best Regards,

Candelin


Dear Candelin,

Ah…daily writing practice. Well, I try. For the past two years, I’ve been working pretty diligently on a poetry manuscript, so, in collecting, writing, and rewriting those poems, I did write almost every day. I think because I had a project in hand, and I had given myself a timeline (to finish the book this summer, and begin submitting it in the fall), I had to write daily. I began working with an editor in January, and once I got the manuscript back, I went through it page by page. I would try to tackle one poem a day. And for the most part, I kept to that schedule, although when I got to poems that needed a complete overhaul, or if I was writing a new poem to address a gap in the book, then those poems would generally take longer. This type of intense revision was new to me, but I found it incredibly useful. I really started to recognize my patterns in writing, the forms I was drawn to (couplets, prose poems), and the types of syntax inversions and line breaks that interest me. I also learned a lot about the stages that my poems go through. For the most part, my poems go through multiple drafts.

Take care and talk soon,

Lisa

Hi Lisa,

I’ve just read your three poems again from MockingHeart Review. I was so struck by the emotional tone, and how the three poems held together as a set. I often have trouble expressing a larger “idea” that comes out of a scene or event in my life. But each of these pieces succeeds at just that. What I notice is how you vary your poetic form to match the mood and rhythm of each poem’s language. Maybe we can dialog a bit about form – how we make the decisions for each poem?

Here are a few of my impressions:

“Tread Water, Please” is so immediate and specific, with many layers of meaning in the conceit of swimming, treading water, and breath. My favorite line is “I don’t feel fit for permanent space.”

“Holding Pattern” spoke to me most strongly. A spare scene in just the first line, followed by a lyrical yet straight-forward lament: “I don’t want to be available.” Judicious use of italics helps readers track the heaviness in your heart. The last line is restorative without being perky or off-handed: “But the regeneration comes in fits and starts if you let it.”

I admire “Gathering” for its brave prose form and haunting language. “…the molten thought becomes something heated, something cooled, something burning and there is nothing holding me to the earth but the salt,…” As someone who grew up on Long Island Sound in Connecticut, I relate to the power of salt water and the healing from swimming in it.

You asked about Burlington Writer’s Workshop (BWW) and its literary journal Mud Season Review. Please check out their website.  I started coming to the weekly BWW workshops in early 2015 and found my creative home and support community. I committed to myself that I would submit once a month, which really helped me write more regularly. I had recently left a corporate marketing career in favor of part-time freelance writing (mostly web content for corporate clients). I had been a blocked creative writer for most of my adult life, so this was a heady, liberating time. I wrote some memoir pieces, a short story or two, part of a children’s musical play, and wrote lyrics to about twenty songs. This was how I discovered that my passion is poetry, and I’ve been immersing myself in that genre for about two years. I’ve attended three all-day Poetry retreats and several workshops led by guest writers, including Baron Wormser, former Poet Laureate of Maine and a gifted instructor.

Last summer, I was accepted as the Mud Season Review Poetry Co-Editor, a volunteer position. This 5-15 hour a week position has been extremely rewarding and has really jump-started my own writing. I’ve been inspired to submit my work widely, and I’ve had a handful of poems published online. Recently I was thrilled when Stone Coast Review in Maine accepted one of my pieces for their Summer 2018 print issue. I’m following the advice of Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way,” journaling every day for the past six years, and enjoying the process and journey of my artistic recovery. I tend to lapse on the weekly “Artist Date,” but when I do them, there’s almost always a creative reward in the form of a new poem or song.

Thanks,

Candelin

 

Dear Candelin,

Congratulations on your publication in StoneCoast Review. It’s a great journal.

And thank you for the kind words about my poems. I’m so excited that you homed in on the rhythm and form because that is something I think about quite a bit, especially when focusing on the line itself, as an entity.

A few thoughts about how I make decisions about forms in poems:

I tend to work a lot with prose poems and poems in long lines. One of the draws of the prose poem is how it can really dictate the rhythm of the poem, like the lines are running over the edge, and the reader is forced to keep up. Sometimes this causes a problem in my work, so I find I must be really specific with punctuation, otherwise, it can be difficult to follow the logic of the poem.

This past year, however, I have found myself writing more in couplets. A few months ago, I was working with a small series of prose poems that weren’t quite working, so I tried writing one of them in couplets. After sharing those versions with a friend, she suggested that I rework all of them in couplets. What I find compelling about the couplet is the placement of the line break, what that does to expand the possibilities of meaning in the poem, as well as to propel the poem forward (which is what I like about the prose poem).

How I make craft decisions really depends on the content unless I’m responding to a prompt that dictates a form. I struggle with adhering to strict forms in my writing, so I’ve also been trying to write in form, with constraints, to challenge myself. I’ll usually pick one formal element, to begin with. I worked with the ghazal form with a poem that was in couplets already, and that I wanted to incorporate repetition into, but I didn’t want it to be a poem about repetition. In the end, I took great liberties with the form and used the repeating word in within alternate lines.

Some of my questions for you: How do you determine form for your poems? What is that process like for you? What are you currently working on now, and what formal shape is it taking/or not?

Talk soon,

 

Lisa

 

Hi Lisa,

Your comments inspire me to experiment with a wider variety of forms – thank you! So far, my writing process has been to start out drafting stanzas in free verse. Once I get the language close to what I’m trying to say, I go back and see if there’s another form that could support the lines better. I’m also drawn to couplets – they provide nice breathing room between images and lines, allowing readers to consume a poem in smaller, hopefully, memorable bites. Other forms I admire, which I’ve only dabbled with, and haven’t come close to mastering. But I’m not giving up: prose poems found poems and centos. Mud Season Review recently published a striking portfolio of the latter two forms by a poet named E. Kristen Anderson – lines taken from Anne Rice novels and other popular writers.

A few of my own poems cried out for a more chaotic look and layout. I can’t say I’m at ease with this type of rule-breaking (though all gratitude to e.e. cummings). But it’s fun for me to go a little wild with shape and punctuation or lack thereof. It’s been many years since I studied poetry, so I’m taking it slow as I rebuild my vocabulary and study of the craft.

What I’m working on now: I bounce between writing song lyrics and poetry. I’ve tried to focus on poetry for the last two years. But lately, I’ve been drafting songs and scenes for a musical play. I’m hoping to work with a composer/collaborator. So, any new poems are in the seedling stage. I do have a long-form poem simmering. It will be after a seven-page poem I’ve always loved by Julia Alvarez called “Making Our Beds.” To help keep that moving along, I’m jotting, jotting, jotting: impressions, images, snippets of conversations I hear – the material goes into my phone as a voice memo or into my notebook. I’m on the wait-list for a residency in October, and this poem will be my project. Whether or not I’m accepted at the residency, I’ve blocked out those two weeks for writing. If not, I’ll fashion a DIY retreat of my own, which I’ve done before. I’m thinking of a friend’s (heated) vacation house on Cape Cod…

One fun thing I’ve done this past year is participating in open mic poetry readings. This was at the encouragement of a wonderful guest poet named Partridge Boswell. He led a series of three workshops on “Revision,” which culminated with eleven of us reading at the Monday night “Lit Club at the Lamp Shop”, a local poetry open mic. His belief is that poems are always in some stage of revision and reading poems in public is a great way to “take them out for a test drive.” Since then I’ve read several times and have become much more relaxed about sharing and revising my work. Quite liberating!

So, I’ve introduced another two new topics you might share about: Your thoughts/experiences on participating in public readings & your approach to revisions.

Cheers,

Candelin

 

Dear Candelin,

Thank you for sharing “Trashed” with me. The poem uses the space well. Particularly the space in the line

 

“Which neighbor takes toast ………… with pure Irish butter?”

I know how long to pause here. The whole poem does that, really instructs the pace. Although, with that said, I’d be interested to hear you read it. Perhaps the pace I move at as a reader doesn’t wholly match yours. I think about that often, especially with poems that move across the page in non-traditional ways. I’m not worried about the reader not reading the poem as I would, but more curious about how the reader is reading the poem.

I’ve been working on trying to participate in more public readings over the last few years. It’s funny, I stand up in front of students all day long and at relative ease, but it’s very different standing up and sharing poems. I’m trying to get over that and have found that I’m starting to enjoy reading my work in public more and more. I think the idea “that poems are always in some stage of revision” is true, and I like the idea of the reading being a “test drive.” It puts a little less pressure on the outcome. Thank you for sharing that.

My approach to revision…well, when I draft, it’s usually messy pages of notes on a legal pad that I eventually come back to. Then, I will rewrite by hand or type the draft (more often I rewrite first), and work with the poem for a bit. Then usually it sits while I think about what the poem is after. That’s when I go back and really dig into the draft, both in terms of craft and content. The short answer, I suppose, is that my poems sit in the draft stage for a long time. I’m always envious of writers who are willing and able to share their newly penned poems at workshops, where the words and images seem instantly connected. I find that I have to dig more for words. The idea roots in my mind long before I find the page, however, since having children, I have more difficulty holding onto lines in my head, so once they’re there, I must write them down immediately.

…Yes, I would love to keep in touch. I second your comment about how nice it is to talk to another writer.

Lisa

 

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cwahl-headshot

Candelin Wahl is an emerging Vermont poet who explores relationships in all their tangled forms. She is Co-Editor of Mud Season Review. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in the 2017 Best of the Burlington Writer’s WorkshopHerStory and Red Wolf Journal.

 

lisa ludden

Lisa Ludden lives, writes, and teaches in Northern California. She is the author of the chapbook Palebound (Flutter Press). Her poems appear in Natural Bridge, the Plath Poetry Project, LUMINA Online, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on her first full-length book of poems.

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