Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Jeannine's talking about what inspires her on her blog.

Here’s her list—

1. Art - Going to galleries and museums really helps me create new ideas, new colors, and new images. Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein and Japanese pop-artists such as Takashi Murakami and Yumiko Kayukawa are a few artists whose work has inspired multiple poems. The weirder, the better. The more I'm around art, there more I think in terms of the visual - and I think that helps my poetry.

2. Novels and short stories. I read a lot of books, but the ones that inspire the most writing lately have been magical-realist types like Kelly Link, Haruki Murakami, and Osamu Dazai (his dazzling Blue Bamboo is a must read for everyone. Loved it!) I think I wrote most of my third manuscript after reading Murakami's After Dark and Blue Bamboo in quick succession. Of course, non-fic, like Hayao Kawai's Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in teh Fairy Tales of Japan, can also be generative: I wrote a lot of the Japanese folk-tale manuscript because of that book, along with a lot of Miyazaki films, which leads me to my next thing:

3. Movies and Television. Hayao Miyazaki's films in particular, and sometimes good/bad (or so bad it's good) TV fare like Heroes, Alias, and Buffy. Graphic novels and comic books probably should be included here too. My never-ending cycle of consuming pop culture and writing about it is probably unstoppable at this point.

Here’s what I do to become inspired—

1) Read. I grab my favorite poetry books. These change all the time but right now, it’s Tracy K. Smith’s DUENDE, Molly Tenenbaum’s NOW, and Dorianne Laux’s FACTS ABOUT THE MOON, which I just started reading. Sometimes I read old interviewer with poets (The Language of Life with Bill Moyers, any old Writer’s Chronicle interview), or a biography of a poet.

2) Visit or talk to other poets about poetry.

3) Visit art galleries or art openings with other artists. If I’m too lazy to go out, I have a subscription to Art in America that I browse through.

4) Take a long drive, a long walk somewhere new, or a long hot shower.

5) Pull up old poems and begin revising them.

6) Make my life really busy because the busier I am, the more I want to write.

I have never been inspired by movies or tv. I think because they turn my brain to off (which is why I like them). However, music can inspire me. I’ll have a writing “theme song” that I’ll turn on and replay over and over while I write. It was The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” and recently was Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am.” But it’s also been the beginning of Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger.”

I would *never* wait to be inspired because who knows when I would write.

On a day I plan to write, I spend about 40 minutes doing nothing except answering emails, browsing blogs, maybe posting a blog entry, and/or checking the news & poem on Poetry Daily. Then I either open up several poems I’m working on to revise or just open a blank document and start writing. If I’m having trouble beginning, I’ll grab a poetry book and turn to a page and randomly choose a few words to begin with. For example, I just grabbed Dorianne’s book and say “Who remembers…” and that would be how I would start writing. I’d edit it out later, but it’s a good way for me to begin. I can also use “She thought” as an opening line, then again, edit it out later.

I write more and better when I write at night than during the day because my internal editor has already gone to sleep, but I revise better in daylight hours. I could write poems all night, during the day, it’s usually more work to write a poem. Night has always been the time when I’m more tuned into “the source,” which may be inspiration, God, or may be just my internal clock. Whatever it is, the darker it is outside, the better my poem. I write much more in the fall and winter, in the spring, my writing starts to dwindle off and in the summer, I barely write at all.

What inspires you? And do you find patterns in your writing life? Do you have a favorite time of day to write?


  1. I don't seem to need any special place or setting to write -- as long as I'm not standing in the rain or something (where the ink would run and the paper would get mushy), I can usually write just about anywhere.

    Often something I'm reading, especially poetry, will get me started.

    Art (Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, much Japanese and Chinese art, David Siqueros), photography (Aleksandr Rodchenko, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Bill Brandt), films are often good for that too.

    Listening to Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, Stravinsky, Miles Davis, all manner of folk music.

    Very often listening to the news on T.V. or radio will start me.

    Sometimes walking, slowly and without a particular destination, gets me close to the ground rhythm that runs through many of my poems.

    Very often I'll just go and find someplace to sit, a coffeehouse, a cafe, a shopping mall. Quiet or noisy doesn't seem to matter. Very often I'll write sitting in bed late at night.

    And likewise, talking with other people, especially with other poets. And writing letters.

    I keep my poem notebooks with me everywhere. When I'm asleep they're by my bed. I've written poems at bus stops at downtown rush hour, during my break at work, while talking with friends, while eating.

    Two or three times I've dreamed a few lines for a poem, but didn't remember much after I woke up.

  2. The main thing I've found about inspiration is to go with it when you have it. I've just had a couple of poems published and decided to write a blog about when they were written, which was in 2004. Thinking back to that time I was very frustrated about how hard I was finding it to write and this very frustration got translated into quite angry poetry. With most writers getting started is the hard bit but once you have it's keeping that momentum going. At times like that everything is fair game – actually that's pretty much true all the time – every word, image, thought, feeling goes through the poetry-filter in my head. I wrote once, "Writers don't have real lives, they have ongoing research," and I still stand by that. I've never found a system for curing writer's block other than increasing the amount and types of stimulation you're exposed to. It may take a while but it's all grease for the mill.

  3. I have to write every day or I won't be ready when I get a good idea.

    I write better up until late night because by then I'm tired or scatterbrained because I surfed the internet too long (I've had to limit my internet use so I don't do too much brainless surfing).

    I'm inspired by meeting new people and experiences, so I'm always trying to find new activities to get involved in.


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