blackbirdonline journalSpring 2016  Vol. 15  No. 1

Contributors on Process

spacer Jacqueline Balderrama
   The Running Brush

Max Berwald
   Some Notes on Table Making

Anna Caritj
   My Muse: An Ant on my Tongue

Dorothy Chan
   Keeping the Spark Alive: Writing as a Lifelong

Eman Hassan
   The Eye of a Witness

Larry Palmer
   Dream Walker

Emily Skaja
   Little Monuments


Since 2007, we have invited contributors from the annual Introductions Loop to comment on their creative processes and sources of inspiration. For these emerging writers, stimulus takes many forms: the passionate and immediate impulse to create, a fortified connection to place and landscape, an instinctual response after years of consistent practice. In this issue, Jacqueline Balderrama, Max Berwald, Anna Caritj, Dorothy Chan, Eman Hassan, Larry Palmer, and Emily Sakja continue the tradition in “Tracking the Muse.”

Jacqueline Balderrama’s poems serve as a crossroads, as an opportunity for discovery through the collision of collected images and narratives. Here, poetry “can redefine what’s normal, what’s beautiful.” For Balderrama, the poem emerges from a flash of recognition, from “knowing there is something . . . asking to be amplified.” The page becomes an examination space, a place where collage becomes a poem and takes on a logic all its own.

Max Berwald approaches writing as “a skill like all others, cultivated by time and effort.” His work builds upon the basics, pushing past an “automatic” engagement with language while utilizing a personal set of rules that’s constantly in flux. These rules, over time, have come to serve as both a “comfort” and a record of the instincts acquired through consistent practice.

Anna Caritj draws upon a deep connection to place, to personal history and family, and “the strange and various people” that surround her. But, she argues, it is not so simple as a down-home impulse. Her work springs out of the details and “diatribes” of a treasured landscape, but it also requires her to strip place and its lessons bare, to examine “what remains after everything else falls away.”

Dorothy Chan considers all poems as “love stories,” reliant on passion and necessarily “[building] upon rush and immediacy.” Most essential to her process is a “determination to make it work,” even when the intensity she seeks to exemplify is fleeting. By surrounding herself with inspiration and staying engaged with her writing, Chan “fuels the spark” that catches the moment inspiration strikes and passion resurfaces.

Eman Hassan sees poetry as the only way to navigate the strangely liminal spaces between “imagination and reality,” the moments in life that strain our ability to see them clearly without trying to remake them. Hassan strives to bring “the eye of a witness” to such moments, deepening them so they become transformative, allowing readers “to soul-search and evolve.”

Larry Palmer maps out writing as a journey through dreams and space. These dreams come to him in various ways—reading poetry, taking long ruminative walks—but he always hopes to be receptive to “the earworms, the whispers, the shouts . . . that are trying to form a pattern of words,” something to guide him as a “dream walker.”

Emily Skaja’s work captures “the anxiety of departure,” the compelling need to catalog both what we leave behind and what we carry forward. To deal with those patterns, poetry must be in “the business of precision,” but that too escapes, leaving not clarity but “prolonged, frustrated shifting.” Skaja argues that’s what we should want: the constant urge to return to a poem or to a place, picking up the pieces we missed on the first go-around.  end