For the last two-and-a-half months, I’ve been getting more and more into the work of L.L. Barkat, the poet and author of four books, including Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing and her book of poetry, InsideOut. Rumors of Water is a book writing in the style of Annie Dillard, which instantly makes me start salivating.
I’m so excited to talk to her about creativity, poetry, and how to balance all those projects and commitments we all have. I hope you enjoy the interview!
Hi Laura. Thanks for joining me! So your book of poetry, InsideOut, came out of your practice of spending fifteen minutes outdoors every day. That sounds very Write Practisian! How did you create poems out of those moments?
The moments created the poems. I found them later, when I was sorting through a year’s worth of journals. The sorting was a terribly tedious process—part of a different book project. Yet as I was sorting, I found these delightful moments already expressed in words that simply needed to be lifted out, set apart, and broken into lines…
and I write
of yellow leaves.
Beautiful. I love that. By the way, I know you use rhyme in your poetry, but many poets seem to have abandoned it. How can writers use rhyme in modern poetry?
Unless you are attempting to write form poetry, which helps you work a bit harder at capturing rhymes in a way that’s effective.
My rhymes are rarely obvious, since they occur internally. It makes me smile that you even noticed them! Good eye, good ear. Like this, from the poem “Muse”:
in the presence of such disdain,
who can stay sane, pen the next
masterpiece while your eyes
look so vexed. You are not
the helpmeet I ordered, not the
glass of red wine nor the rich, fine…
I heard an interview where you described your poetry process as a moment of connection between an emotion and an image. Can you talk more about that? How can writers create those kinds of connections?
Maybe the first step is to regularly play with images. Don’t worry about finding the emotion; it’s there—buried by the day, the month, or even the years.
You can tap into the emotion through touching images, just writing them down and sticking with them. Make simple lists of what you see on the table or out the window. Do this every day for a while.
Over time, the process of connection becomes more automatic, and emotions attach themselves, express themselves through what you see around you and the sounds you use to bring that to the page.
faded cobalt sky and the sun
leaking tears, yellow, pink.
You write poetry, essays, and blog posts. How do you balance it all?
Do I? :)
I’m terribly impetuous. I write what I want when I want. This is why your blog stands a better chance than any one of mine; I use my blogs to process thoughts and test out ideas.
But two of my books came from using such an approach, as I watched my readers take an interest in certain topics I was simply playing around with.
In fact, Rumors of Water:Thoughts on Creativity & Writing came out of a blog post called Ten Reasons to Write (Or Not) a Book About Writing. An acquisitions editor came by the post and asked for a proposal, and that’s when I knew I really had something. A year later, I wrote the book (and blogged very little… how’s that for balance? :)
When do you write? Mornings? Late at night?
I’m not fussy. I write whenever I can snatch a few minutes to myself. Rumors of Water was written daily from 4 am to 8 am over a period of three weeks. Other books took over a year, in the evenings. I have this terrible compulsion to finish a project once I’ve started, so you can be assured that any free moment will be fair game, regardless of whether the sun has risen or set.
Do you have any special places where you feel like you can be more creative?
Sure. I’d take Paris, the ocean off California, or a little cabin in the Adirondacks. Well, that is if I could. Really, I just write at the table in my dining room or on the back porch. It’s terribly unromantic.
I love your last name. You aren’t, in fact, a cat who lives in a bar, perchance?
Maybe I am. I’ll never tell.
L.L. Barkat is the author of Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, as well as two spiritual memoirs and a book of poetry. She is Managing Editor of Tweetspeak Poetry and Staff Writer for The Curator. If you ever have reason to bribe her, she accepts tea and chocolate.
Here’s L.L. Barkat’s practice prompt:
Sit outside for fifteen minutes. Do nothing. You may feel like this is a waste of time. Perfect. You might find your mind drifting, your thoughts unfolding. Let it happen without making any effort to be productive.
When you come back in the house (apartment, office, classroom), write for three pages straight. This may also feel like a waste of time. But it is freeing you. Find just three lines you like and post them here. If someone else has posted three lines, consider making a small poem of them, right in the comment box, as a way to celebrate their words.