+ text   - text

Segue 12: Fall 2014  ||  Ken Poyner


about the author


Ken Poyner lives in the Tidewater region of Virginia, with his world-class powerlifting wife, four rescue cats, and two demanding fish. His first book of poetry, Cordwood, came out in 1985; his second, Sciences, Social, in 1995; and his most recent book, Constant Animals, short fictions, in 2013. He has appeared in Poet Lore, Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Iowa Review, The Alaska Quarterly, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Watershed Review, and about eighty other places. He has had multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, and taught once on an NEA Community Teaching grant. He is looking for a home for his latest book of short fictions, and working on a collection of poems rooted in radical cybernetics.


about the work


I am a creature of revision. Yes, getting the idea can be tough. Usually, I will go through dry spells, but then the backed up ideas start stumbling out all on their own. Someone else’s good work prods them loose, or some other experience that knocks me a bit off kilter pushes them to the exit, and I have Morse code in my hands to work with.

Generally, the first draft is little more than an outline, punctuated with passages here and there that are idyllic romps through the story line, or around the emotion of the developing piece. Immediately after my race to the end of the story, I turn around and begin again, often expanding the work by as much as a third. Then, I will go back and start yet again. Elements in the story inform me that they need more substance; others tell me that they have their middle, but no beginning or no end. I apologize, and try to meet the story’s demands. I can place perhaps a new longing here, a closed door there. A rude handshake for the butler. Carnivorous butterflies in a gentle afternoon rain.

I can go over a draft initially four or five times. It is here that it moves from a musing to an attempt at something literary. It is here that it moves from opinion to politics. I twist and turn the possibilities, looking in each dark corner and deciding if it is there I want to go. I watch my original idea slip away and I learn to love the construct that has replaced it. Then I leave it alone.

A few days later the story and I box for a few turns, and quite often what may have started as 700 clipped words has, by the end of these sessions, become 1200 or 1400, or even 3000, with a character I did not suspect, or a turn of the tongue I was not originally looking for. The goal is for the work to surprise me. If it does not at some point push me with the unexpected, then it is hardly worth working on.

In the end, the story must tell me what it wants to do. It must have an independence. It must stand its ground without me. When the story and I sit glaring at each other across the computer screen and I have no keystrokes to give it, then it is ready. Ready, at least, for its first trip off the reservation.

I stand by to help it with its wounds should it come bedraggled back.


Ken Poyner on the Web









  © 2014 Segue online literary journal :: Miami University Middletown