Photo: ©Eireann Lorsung
The author of Music For Landing Planes By answers The Magazine of Yoga’s Five Questions for Poets
BY THE MAGAZINE OF YOGA STAFF
Website Milkweed Editions
Author’s website ohbara.com
Doing and being
Do you have a writing ritual?
Not really. I have things I know I can do to write better, but really what they are are ways of getting myself to focus for longer periods of time – like writing right away in the morning and not letting myself do anything else (read, internet, email, clean).
I like to write in the same things (a red notebook and my laptop) and I like having a clean copy of what I’ve written printed out so I can see it. I can’t organize a manuscript without having hard copies in front of me. I go through long stretches of using a single font: for a while Hoefler Text, then Garamond, then Arial, now back to Garamond. The font feels like the poems, to me.
I will also kind of stay in my ‘writing mood’ all day if I can, by cutting my contact with other people. It’s like being in a bit of a daze. I can only think about writing, as though I am constantly producing text, even when I’m not physically writing.
If I manage my morning time right, I know I can get to this place (especially if I am writing a longer piece or something theoretical). I also know it’s not easy to be around me when I’m there! But I suppose these are all patterns or habits, rather than rituals.
What says no when your work isn’t right? What says yes when it is?
If it’s not right I don’t end up coming back to it.
Yes is the hair rising, or if it makes me grin. Or swear to myself. Or praise myself, by surprise. Yes when I get an immediate reply from a friend I’ve sent it to.
Yes when I can’t stop thinking about it when I go to bed and I’m excited to work on it when I wake up.
Choosing a way
Cartographers orient by North South East and West. As a poet, what compass points do you travel by?
My desk always seems to end up facing south or south-west. I feel my way by light and the invisible strings that tie me to my kin. By the strange spires/non-spires of churches in this place where I’m foreign. By the nasturtium leaves swiveling with the sun.
In my memory, from the East Bank of the Mississippi River to Venice to the school next to the Doubs, to the streets we lived on in Ghent, to Paris (walking late at night and needing to be nowhere).
I orient by memory, light, others, and work.
Who is the public figure, infamous character or personal acquaintance to whom would you most like to give a book of poetry. What poet or book? Why?
I’d like to give Josh Ritter MY first book – if it’s not too presumptuous to say so. I’ve loved his music since 2003 and listened to lots of it while writing Music For Landing Planes By.
I’ve always imagined sending him my book with a proposal to collaborate; I think he writes great lyrics:
What makes the water holy she says
Is that that it’s the closest thing to rain
And it would be a thrill if he said yes.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess that’s the ‘why’.
Honoring and gratitude
You are awarding The Magazine of Yoga Cultural Currency Award to your choice of an artist – any artist, not necessarily a poet – who is bringing the conversation forward in some way. That may be by enlarging the audience (i.e. translating a writer who we’ve not had access to), enlarging what can be considered in artistic practice (new forms, new collaborations) or evolves their art in a way that moves you/instigates a progression you feel is important.
Who is this artist and what do you want to say about her or him?
I’d give it to my friend, the poet Laressa Dickey.
She has an inspiring and beautiful writing and somatic practice and I love to observe it, be part of it. Her work takes in concerns about the body, family history, migration, movement, and works with them in these fragmented long forms which feel like dance to me.
I admire the way she works for a place of understanding and of being-together in her work. She has taught me a lot about grace.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.