blackbirdonline journalSpring 2014  Vol. 13  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview
 download audio

A Conversation with Kevin Powers
captured November 8, 2013

Gregory Donovan: Well, I’m very pleased to welcome you all here. As you know, Kevin Powers was an undergraduate at VCU, and all of us at this university, especially in the English department, are very proud of his accomplishments and really glad to see him back here. Some of you who have worked for Blackbird might be interested to know that he used to work for Blackbird as well. In addition, he is both a published poet and a published novelist, and this is his beautiful novel, The Yellow Birds, which I have so much enjoyed reading. It’s just really a great pleasure, [an] extraordinary book; one that I think far exceeds any kind of narrow definition. It’s not just a war novel, you know; it goes far beyond that. In fact, I sort of imagine that you might reset such categorizations altogether and just might want to just be a novelist. [laughs]

Kevin Powers: Yeah, I mean, that’s sort of the way I think of myself as a writer. I try not to get too worried about other people’s categorizations, but it’s a challenge in a way, I guess, to prove that I deserve to call myself a writer without any qualifications.

GD: Well, I think you’ve definitely done it in this book. But, you know, since we’re talking a little bit about that, you’ve identified yourself as a writer and I really identify with that, and I write outside of one genre myself—and maybe if you wanted to talk just a little bit about any cross fertilization that goes on between the two genres. My teacher, John Gardner, always recommended to his fiction writing students that they be reading poetry all the time, and he quoted poetry all the time, and if a line of your prose went wrong, he would scan it for you and that kind of thing. So do you have any experience with finding that working in more than one genre has been helpful to you?

KP: Absolutely. And, you know, I think my desire to write in multiple genres just reflects my love of both—particularly the novel but also short fiction and poetry as a reader. And I think for most writers, we tend to write the kinds of things we read or like to read, so if I’m stuck working on a prose piece and I’m reading a poem and there’s some kind of immediate effect of a particular line, then I may go back to whatever I was working on and see if I can kind of produce the same effect if it’s of value in the scene. And the same thing, I mean, I think sometimes in poetry what I’m really looking to do is take what may have begun as a kind of longer series of thoughts that I’ve been attempting to put into prose and take it and try to get it down to its essential . . . get it down to something that can be . . . not understood but sort of received with the kind of immediacy that poetry can often give you as a reader. I don’t even know where I put a boundary, or if I really think a boundary’s necessary. There was that great quote the other night, when we saw each other at the Library of Virginia: “A poet is a man or woman alone in a room with the English language.” And that definition is good enough for me.

Audience: Well, this is a little bit related: can you talk specifically about the decision to write The Yellow Birds as a novel instead of engaging those ideas through poetry?

KP: Well, I mean, I have engaged with those ideas in poetry, and, you know, and for me, I just figure volume is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes I need to produce as much work as I can so that I have something I can shape. A lot of my writing process involves just getting rid of a lot of the crap I’ve produced, and sometimes it’s a bunch of poems that aren’t working and sometimes it’s a longer prose piece that I’ll find a small section of that works. So I try to take whatever question feels pressing in the moment and use whatever form is available to try to contend with it, and very often I’ll find myself trying to put the same idea, the same image, the same line in a poem, in a story—and just seeing what feels like it would be most valuable to someone reading it, what seems like it’s coming closest to aligning with that sort of amorphous thing that’s happening in your head that I’m always sort of struggling to pin down but never seem to be quite able to. As far as why did I make the specific decision to write a novel? I just kept compiling material and, you know, I had poems that were being written sort of alongside of it, and I just kind of said, “Well, I’m just going to go in both directions for as long as I can and see what comes out, see what I’ve got on the other side.”

Audience: In terms of those images, or ideas that kind of . . . you sort of try to get out in both forms, I noticed that Private Bartle, who’s the narrator of The Yellow Birds, appears in at least one of your poems that I’ve read. Can you talk about how Bartle functions for you, you know, like this voice or this character?

KP: Well, I think that poem, when I wrote that poem, I was here, actually, and I think it was the first time I really felt like I had a solid, specific—you know, it was just a name, but—place that would anchor my thinking or [a] figure that would anchor my thinking about war and what I was . . . the questions I was trying to ask about it. So, for him, he just became my voice, and I didn’t . . . when I wrote that poem, I didn’t know that that’s what was going to happen. As soon as I saw the way that he functioned in that poem, I thought, “Well, actually, I’m really interested in why he says the line that he says kind of in an offhand way.” And I just wanted to know more about him, and I felt like, “Okay, I can begin right there with this guy and what his experience is like.”

Audience: So you said you were sort of figuring out what questions you wanted to ask about your experiences. Have your ideas of what the purpose of writing about your wartime experiences . . . like, do you have any larger ideas about what war writing accomplishes?

KP: Yeah, I mean, I guess it’s true of my writing about war but also how I feel about the act or attempt of writing in general. It’s this idea that we actually can create something that allows another person to—even if it’s in a very small way—share another person’s experience, that it is somehow transferable. We’re not kind of isolated in our experience, and as a reader, it’s always . . . you know, I’ve always turned to imaginative works of art, so poems, fiction, short stories, plays. In my case, it’s . . . the one thing that I suppose I do believe, with a fair amount of certainty, is that the imagination is where all empathy begins. And writing is one of the best ways to kind of open up that space, and that’s how it’s been for me as a reader and that’s kind of my one aspiration when I’m working, is to kind of try to create a space where that kind of thing can happen.

Audience: You know, in your novel, right away, as soon as I began reading it, I had this sense of spaciousness in the prose itself, and immediately I was very conscious that you had chosen a particular style and approach that was artful, and it really was working well for me as a reader. Then, I guess, [as] I continued in the novel, I began to see that that wasn’t chosen just for artful reasons, that it was that particular technique you were using—which I’m going to just loosely call [a] spacious and generous way of writing—actually was a way of revealing the state of mind of the narrator character in that there was a kind of opportunity to express the peculiar dissociation that was going on in his life through that method. So then I began thinking, because I’m a writer and sneaky SOB, I was like, “Which one came first: the decision to use that open style to reveal character, or was character demanding the style?”

KP: I think it was probably simultaneous. I sort of realized that one would work with the other. It probably does reflect a natural inclination I have as a writer; I’m drawn to people who write in that way where I feel the room and the environment, where I feel the space, where I feel the kind of physical location in the writing. But, particularly with Bartle, I mean, I thought about a lot of different ways trying to approach his experience and give a reader access to what his mental state is like, and it seemed, at least to me, that there are a couple . . . I mean, this is a wild oversimplification, but one way of thinking about a character or narrator is to think about . . . you’re writing to sort of look at him and see what he or she is doing and what’s happening to them and the way they’re responding to their environment. But I read this . . . [John] Ruskin has this quote about [J. M. W.] Turner, and he talks about Turner painting from inside the sea. It was as if Turner painted from inside the sea. And I thought, “Well, instead of trying to look at this character, why don’t I see if it’s possible to sort of look out at the world through him,” so I just sort of assigned myself this project of trying to create a portrait from the inside out rather than sort of from the outside looking at him, and it became necessary to really focus on what he pays attention to and the things that he notices, and a lot of that is an emptiness that probably does mirror his internal state in a lot of ways, and the environment.

Audience: The subject matter is so white-hot and so powerful and I think would overwhelm a lot of people to the point where they would just be silenced by the enormity of it, and it struck me that one of the things that you’re saying, and that I’ve experienced as well, if not in this kind of white-hot material but other materials I found difficult to work with, that craft is the crucible that will hold those things. And I really felt that in your work, that you were . . . that’s how you were triumphing over that challenge.

KP: Well, I certainly appreciate that, and I do think there’s a way that I thought about just sort of being master of the material, insofar as that’s possible for anybody, as a writer. But, in a way, that that’s also the task of the narrator; that’s what he’s attempting to do is become . . . get some kind of control over his experience, and so I felt an affinity for [him] . . . not just because I had gone through circumstances that were similar to what he’s going through, but also the kind of need to arrange and order and try to shape the experience, to have some kind of . . . not to extract a lesson from it, that’s not what I mean . . . but, you know, just sort of the power that comes from naming, you know, determining what the boundaries are and having some agency in that. So the process of writing was rewarding in that way, but it also opened up some opportunities to sort of explore what that’s like for anybody going through a traumatic experience or something like that. And I hope that readers, when they’re reading, would see that there is a kind of . . . that there is a mechanism in place to get through it and that I’m thinking of them, I’m conscious of them, because I do understand that the subject matter could be unbearable to a reader.

Audience: So many people who write about warfare . . . I think so many of them take refuge in technical stuff, like, you know, the descriptions of weapons and descriptions of certain kinds of battles, and, you know, the facts of war. I can understand why they would take refuge in that, I don’t want to be judgmental about it, but for me that kind of writing is very dense and heavy, and it doesn’t really produce involvement. It pushes you away.

KP: Yeah, and I mentioned earlier that I tried, you know, I tried to take out as much of that as I possibly could. And I made that decision because I understood that the biggest challenge would be getting a reader to accept that the core of the experience was something that they could understand on some level, that the core of the experience was something that they could relate to and feel some empathy toward, and I wanted to remove any superficial impediment that would get in the way of that understanding. So I didn’t want somebody to open the book and say, “Oh, what’s an M-blah blah blah blah blah? Oh, I don’t know what that is, I’m going to put it down.” Because, you know, I just felt like the difficulty of the primary task of creating this space where empathy could take place and where understanding could take place was hard enough as it is, so I just kind of figured I need to get rid of all this extra bullshit that’s going to get in the way of that.

Audience: My dad thought he could give me advice about writing and show me the pathway to making money. And the books he would feed me were books that mentioned the exact type of weapon and size of hole it would make on you on virtually every page. I was shocked that there were such books, you know, and I had a hard time explaining to him why I didn’t want to make money. [laughs]

KP: Right. I’ve had some of those conversations myself. And some people—some people love that stuff, but enough people don’t that there’s room for the rest of us, so.

Audience: I’m very inspired by what you said about the need to cultivate compassion for the reader, but I’m curious as to whether or not an aspect of that was sort of a self-compassion or a self-understanding by the end of the novel.

KP: Well, you’re certainly trying anyway. I mean, I’m in this and when I’m writing a poem, it’s always because the world is an incredibly confusing and baffling place and I’m trying to—you know, even if it’s like fourteen lines—just get some kind of stable ground for myself mentally or emotionally, whatever it is. So yeah, I mean, that’s what I’m looking for. That’s why I sit down to do it in the first place. And then you hope—hope against hope—that maybe you’re doing something where that process can be duplicated for a total stranger. And sometimes that happens and it’s really amazing.

Audience: And the research—I mean, there’s all this research now that shows that that’s the single factor on psychological tests. People who read fiction have higher levels of compassion and empathy. And that, you know, they do these experiments where people read nonfiction, but somehow there’s something so powerful about reading a story.

KP: There is and it’s—you know, I mean, fiction can talk about—and they might be wrong—but they can make explicit statements about what it means to be a person and what it means to be a human being. And sometimes in nonfiction you need to prove that stuff. So yeah, I mean, I had never heard that before, but it does make sense. I don’t know if it’s a chicken or an egg thing—people who are maybe inclined to be interested in that in the first place are drawn to fiction because they can find it, or if it’s a product of reading, but in either case it does make sense that that kind of relationship between the material and the willingness to look at the experience of a total stranger or a fabrication in the mind of a total stranger. Yeah, I mean, it’s a pretty amazing thing. I know a lot of people don’t like this novel and I get made fun of a lot for telling people how much it meant to me, but I remember reading Look Homeward, Angel for the first time when I was, I don’t know, fourteen or something. And I was just blown away. It was the first time I remember recognizing that I could have a real relationship, or feel real feelings toward somebody that didn’t exist. You know, or somebody that—whose, you know—relationship to reality was not one-to-one anyway. So, yeah.

Audience: I’m interested in this idea of like cultivating empathy, teaching empathy in a way, also. Do you think that doing that in the context of a novel about war, or a poem about war, is in any way different from what other fiction or poetry explores?

KP: I mean, I don’t know that it fundamentally is. I think maybe there’s the idea that there are certain experiences where they’re so extreme that you can’t relate to it unless you’ve been through it and that’s something that’s kind of propagated by, you know, both ends of the equation where people who don’t feel like they—people who haven’t been through it feel like they can never understand it and people who have think that there’s that bond from the experience that you just can’t share with anybody else. And I think that kind of idea is present in a lot of extreme situations or if somebody has been through a very specific kind of trauma. But I think it’s bullshit. I mean, I think we can. If I couldn’t say that I believe we could understand each other, then I don’t know what I would do. I mean, that’s sort of like what gets me up in the morning, you know? Yeah, so. So, I mean, I suppose the only thing that’s different is maybe it requires a little more convincing. I’ve had to tell people, no, seriously. I mean I think maybe you could and I’ve had people tell me, you know, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to understand and now I have just a little glimpse of what it may have been like. I’ve heard that from the families of veterans who, you know, said they’d basically given up on trying to understand what their loved one was going through. And the fact that something I sat by myself writing for four years late at night—the fact that that could have a demonstrable effect in another human being’s life is the most rewarding thing that has ever happened to me. So, it’s pretty wild.

Audience: Was this book painful to write?

KP: Yeah, I mean—yeah, I mean, on many levels it was really hard. Writing is hard, for me, anyway. I am not a “first thought, best thought” person. I sometimes think I am, but usually the evidence indicates that I need lots of thoughts before I get to my best thought. You know, and I spent a long time thinking about a lot of really terrible shit and it’s hard. But it’s kind of—that’s the point, you know? At least for me.

Audience: Did you run into any of the experiences that I’ve sometimes witnessed Tim O’Brien have, or Bruce Weigl—two writers who wrote about the Vietnam War, both of them being combat veterans. There sometimes are other combat veterans who want to challenge their version of things or like, say: You didn’t get that right, or I was at that battle, you know, even though it’s fiction. I was there and it didn’t happen that way.Have you ever run into any of those kinds of things?

KP: Oh, yeah. I mean some. But that’s just kind of like—what are you gonna do? You know? No, I’ve had people say Oh, well, I don’t think such and such would happen that way. And it’s like, well I don’t know if it would either, but you know, that’s—you know, I’m making decisions to try to tell something that feels sort of—not like a larger truth—but maybe a truer truth. And I’m shaping the story to allow that thing to be said. It’s sort of like any time somebody has a certain amount of experience or expertise. It’s like watching a military movie with people who’ve been in the military is the worst experience ever because they’re like that guy’s uniform’s all messed up. That’s not how it goes. And you’re just like yeah, but that’s not really the point. I did try, you know. I tried to—I wanted it to be, again, I wanted—I was trying to get at some kind of emotional truth that you didn’t need that experience to get to. Is it the Picasso quote where he says, “All art is a lie, but it lies in service of the truth?” I’ll take that side of it. But yeah, I mean, I’ve had some of that stuff, and I’ve had—I had a guy in New York who was like I don’t think you really—I don’t know, he was basically saying that like my war experience wasn’t bad enough? And I was like, okay well, you weren’t—I mean, you know, it’s like I’m not gonna justify it to you and it doesn’t matter anyway. I didn’t have to go to Iraq to write a novel about it, you know? So, I don’t give a shit what you think about my war experience. But yeah, that happens sometimes. But I imagine that happens to anybody who’s writing about a subject on which there is lots of information available, so. Yeah, it’s weird, though. You know, people have opinions.

Audience: You talked a little bit about the shaping that went into telling the story and as someone studying novels and writing novels, I paid a lot of attention to that. Like attention between the lyrical and poetic language versus the more graphic or quick-moving, sharper scenes. Or what you do with time, right? Switching back and forth from the experiences in Iraq and Bartle’s experiences in Virginia and Germany after the war. So, I’m just curious about some of that structuring, like some of those decisions. What made you want to tell the story in that way?

KP: Yeah, well, I mean, there are a couple of things that I was thinking about that led to that. One was when I had the story in sort of chronological order—at least in my own mind—I recognized that there was an opportunity to let the structure mirror his mental state. Whenever he’s in the present, he has these memories that sort of encroach on what he’s going through and he doesn’t really have much control over that. And I wanted it to be a little mixed up the way that he—the way that you as a reader experience what he’s going through. But you know, I tried to do it in such a way that you understood that this kind of fragmenting was happening, but that as a reader you weren’t confused by it, that you could see it, but you could also sort of stay with it. So, and then, you know, there were some practical things we were talking earlier about: as a writer, in a case like this when you’re asking a reader to endorse some really heavy subject matter, there needs to be some relief there. Whether it’s in terms of the language or the kind of the register that’s being used or whether it’s having a respite from violent scenes where lots of violence is taking place. And so you try to like modulate that so that it’s not just tolerable, but it’s also, like, effective and effectively communicating these multiple levels of what’s happening not just to the character, but around the characters and inside the characters. You know, for me, I just sort of think, well, I try to be very realistic about my level of talent and recognize that I need to use every tool that’s available to me. And some of that is structural stuff, and some of that is being attentive to sort of what register I’m in at any given moment. And yeah, and just looking at what I have and being honest about what it is and where it can be improved and where it can be stronger and where I need to pull back a bit. For me, so much of that stuff happens when I’ve got a bunch of stuff on the page already. I mean, that’s where the real work starts for me. Yeah.

Audience: Actually, I’m curious about the process ’cause you wrote a lot of this book while you were in an MFA program. Can you talk about like the editing process? Like if you have received a lot of help from particular people or?

KP: I did, yeah. No, I mean, so I got really good advice before I got to Texas—somebody told me, find your readers. And they weren’t saying find the people who love everything you do and they’re just gonna praise you and blow sunshine and all that stuff. It was people who understood what your aspirations were for the work that you were doing and knew how to talk about that and knew how to tell you where you were achieving it and where you were falling short and weren’t trying to—you know, they were trying to help you get to where you wanted to go and not necessarily critique you in such a way that you got closer to what they were trying to do. And I found—yeah, I actually found a lot of people like that in the program I was in, and I just really trusted what they said. And sometimes that meant that I had to ignore some other people. Not that I didn’t, like, listen to what they were saying, but you develop a kind of trust with certain people and they become your readers, and if you’re lucky, they trust you enough to read their stuff and that was really, really important. I guess I maybe workshopped a little bit of it, but there were four or five classmates that I really trusted that I gave the whole thing to ’cause it’s like, you know—working on a novel, if somebody reads a chapter of it and they’re giving you notes on one chapter without the whole context, that can be really hard. Not that you can’t get a lot of really good information from those conversations, but for me, it was much better when somebody knew the entire scope of what I was trying to do ’cause then they could say, Oh, well this actually seems like it’s working really well in chapter three, but because of what’s happening in chapter seven, it’s actually terrible and you need to start over. And it was—I was really happy that I had people who could say that to me and I, you know, I could trust that they were saying that with my best interest involved. I had a class where it was just like, Hey, I’m just gonna keep working on this novel for a little while, and I would check in with the professor and see where we were at, and that was really valuable, too. I guess people sometimes give the MFA program as an institution a bad rap. I don’t understand it. You know, for me it was extraordinarily valuable, and some of those relationships that I made there are still really important, and I still send people stuff that I’m working on, the same people. So it was awesome for me.

Audience: I’m just curious about—I read you’re working on something else now, a second novel. And I’m curious if your process has changed, and also if you could just tell us a little bit about how that project is different from your first novel.

KP: Yeah. I mean I don’t know if the process has really changed. It does help that I do feel like I kind of recognize what part of the process I’m in. Which was, for me, with the first one, everything I did was totally new. It was the first time I’d ever done it. It was the first time I revised a seventh chapter of—you know, it was everything was brand new to me and it was—I just, a lot of times, felt like I was totally in the dark on it. And it’s not any less difficult now. I mean, it’s still really hard. So where I am with it now is sort of in the—I would call it the “problem identification stage.” I’m really far from being in the “problem solving stage,” and that’s both in terms of kind of, you know, the work that I’ve done thus far, but also in trying to figure out, you know, where is the story? Like what’s actually happening here? I’m still trying to sort through all that stuff. I went through that same kind of process with the first book; I just didn’t know that that’s what it was. I didn’t—you know, I was just like, I guess I’ll write a bunch of shit and then see what’s working and then try to—. So yeah, so it’s a different thing—I mean, I guess some of the concerns are gonna be similar. As currently constituted, it’s a novel set just after the Civil War’s ended and it’s about a young woman who’s sort of trying to figure out her place in all this, like the ruins of this busted up place. So it’s about her and what she’s dealing with. But I guess in the larger sense, like, as a person I’m probably always going to be interested in thinking about what violence does to individuals and communities and how people respond to extraordinary circumstances. So, yeah, I think as far as all that goes I do feel like there is a kind of advantage to recognizing the stage I’m in. It’s not much, but it’s, like, okay. You know, I know I’ve got a lot of work left to do. Just sort of being able to say that is—I don’t know. I take some comfort in it. ’Cause the first time I was like—there were definitely a couple times where I was like, All right, I’m done! And then no, not true, not done. Yeah.

Audience: Well, you talk about your approach to writing The Yellow Birds in pretty modest terms, pretty humble terms. A lot of pretty impressive comparisons have been made between this work and some of the classic war novels, right? Like Hemingway, Mailer, O’Brien got mentioned. Was any of this with you while you were writing? Like were you consciously thinking about what other people had written about war?

KP: Yeah, I mean, I guess in some ways I was consciously thinking about the stuff that had been important to me and the stuff that I felt like had effectively communicated parts of that experience. But no, I wasn’t sitting there thinking like, All right, Hemingway, get ready. No, that’s just not, I mean, that’s just not—those kinds of thoughts don’t have any place in this head. And if they did I would do everything I could to banish them immediately. Yeah, it’s weird, but again, it’s like, I mean, praise is great, but it’s also sort of—I almost put in that same category. People get to make their own, they get to finish whatever it is that you’ve written, you know. They’re bringing—they’re kind of completing your work for you when they’re reading it. So, whether they think it’s terrible or they think it’s great, you know, that’s kind of, that’s their business. I sort of think that, like, once I’m done with it and I hand it over to somebody then it’s theirs and they can do or say whatever they want, you know. I’ve done the best work that I could do given my abilities at that particular time and whatever somebody wants—if they’re willing to read it I’m like hey, that’s great, I appreciate that. And then it’s theirs; it doesn’t really belong to me after that, so. That’s kind of how I think about it.

Audience: Kevin, one of the many things that I felt was truly remarkable about your novel was actually what wasn’t there. And I thought, many times, what was on the cutting ground floor? And how did you make those choices? Because I imagine that there were many chapters that didn’t end up in The Yellow Birds.

KP: Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff that didn’t make it in and didn’t deserve to be in and will hopefully never see the light of day. Yeah, I mean, there was just stuff that just felt superfluous once I saw it in the context. Maybe if I was working on a particular scene it might feel like it was gonna contribute something to the story and then when you see it, no this is distracting and this is actually totally irrelevant to anything that I want to say, so. There was a lot of stuff like that. There were at one point more characters. You know, when I talked earlier about really trying to create this sort of picture, looking out through this one character’s eyes, one of the things that I realized was I was gonna have to kind of cut everything that, you know, sort of distracted or took you out of the experience of sort of being in Bartle’s head. And I knew that would be a challenge as it was, but having scenes where he’s not present, or having scenes where other people have the kind of primary position, you know, the sort of the primary actors in the scene—I just felt like that stuff was just going to take away from really immersing somebody in the experience of being that narrator and that character. So there was a lot of stuff like that. Yeah, and you just, I don’t know, for me I just feel like I have to be ruthless when I’m rewriting, you know? Because if I’m not my own worst critic, somebody will happily volunteer for that job, you know? I don’t want to be in a position where I’m letting somebody else think more deeply about the work that I’ve done than I did, you know. When I was in kind of the last draft, I would just start and just read out loud everything, and so even on a sentence level, if I felt like there was a beat that didn’t belong, I took it out. And that was kind of the same scaled up, you know, earlier in the process. If there was a scene that didn’t work, I just took it out. I just took everything out that didn’t feel like it was fluid and essential.

Audience: So, as an extension of that, you had said earlier, you made a kind of quip about one of your readers saying, you know, Chapter three was good until we got to chapter seven, now you gotta trash the whole thing. And so, in that editing process, how far do you go into your novel? Like how many—you know, would you work on a chapter and then sort of review that chapter before entering the next chapter, or do you try to kind of get the whole thing fairly fleshed out? Or you know, in terms of like—I mean, I realize that’s gonna be layers of editing, but I’m just kind of curious how far you let yourself get before you even look back because this idea of being your own worst critic can really trip you up, I think, in the early stages, or at least it does with me.

KP: It can. Yeah, and you have to—or, at least I have to find some kind of balance between that. You know, going with being like ruthless in the rewriting, I try to be fearless like when I’m putting the first attempt down, you know. So, I don’t have—I don’t really have a specific I’ll wait to go back until I’ve got, you know, five thousand words. I don’t have any, like, programmatic thing like that, but I sort of allow myself to address whatever the most pressing question is on that day or in that moment and give it as much attention as I possibly can until I wear myself out on it, and then, you know, if I need to move to something else the next day. But I get to—you know, I try to get to, I guess to be honest with you, I try to get to a point where I think it’s really good, and then I stop and then I remind myself that there’s no way that it’s actually really good, and to go back and then, you know, do the same thing over. So I had the great pleasure of working with Dean Young at UT, and one of the things—I remember asking him about revision one time and he was like, you just have to revise it ’til you like it. Which could potentially be an infinite process, but like I mean that’s kind of—you know, I don’t know, I guess you just sort of break it up into whatever seems, like manageable at that time. You know, it’s a little, I guess it’s, you know, a little different with poetry ’cause I do feel like poetry you’re—you need sort of a finer, sharper instrument. But instinct, you know, instinct for me is definitely a part of it. It’s sort of trusting your gut when something’s going right and trusting your gut when something’s going wrong. And allowing other people you trust to be a part of the process is, you know, for me, that’s something that I need.

GD: Are there any other questions? Thank you very much. Thank you.

KP: You’re very welcome. Very happy to be here.  end  

return to top