“The Paradox Is Where the Piece Starts”


An interview with the poet and writer Wendy S. Walters over at Vol. 1 Brooklyn:

I wanted to talk about your introduction to Multiply/Divide. When I first saw it, I initially talked about it as an essay collection, but then I saw that you divided the pieces into essays, lyric essays, and fiction. Do you generally know, when you sit down to write a piece, what approach you’re going to take?

The thing for me is, the paradox is where the piece starts. You’ll come across something, and you’ll go, “Hmm. Why are these red berries growing on this bush that always produces blueberries?” I think that’s interesting–is it the soil, is it the season, is it pollution? What’s the trigger? The inciting incident often tells me a lot about the form. I tend to think of written works in kind of an architectural way. That comes from writing songs or writing plays. There’s certainly a visual cue from the subject that’s going to suggest to me how I might put a piece together. I’m usually pretty clear on how long the piece is going to be before I start it. I used to teach at the Rhode Island School of Design; I taught there for many years. I think the art students I worked with definitely influenced my process; I’ve also worked with musicians for many years. I had a sculpture student who told me one thing that I thought was brilliant, about carving in stone. He said that his approach to carving in stone was, he picked the piece of stone, and he asked it what was inside of it. His job was to cut away the parts of the stone that were not essential to reveal what was always inside of it. I think of my composition process as pretty similar to that.

More here.