Do you use past experiences and observations in your poetry, therefore serving merely as a release? Are you trying to make impressions upon others through your writings?

Knowlton:

Of course, I use past experiences and observations (also, I use current observations and hopes – and aren’t hopes about the future?) – but no, certainly all of these experiences aren’t solely a release. This is not to say that there isn’t an element of release in the poems. I think that there’s an element of release in everything we write, if release can be called an attempt to understand things around us. There is always an element of fiction in my poems too. So it’s both fiction and the “real”, all mixed together.

Sellman:

Past experiences and observations are what shape one's view of the world, it's impossible to omit them from one's work as a writer. There is no release, at least not for me. If anything, I'm bound to conviction when I consciously integrate experience and observation. That's a complicated way
of saying that I make sure I "own my words."

[Are you trying to make impressions upon others through your writings?] Now this is an interesting question. On the one hand, anyone who creates (independently) is doing so because they have something to say. So, in that vein, yes. There is ego involved, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There is no such thing as an ego-less artist. You have to have some ego in order to believe that what you do is worthwhile.

On the other hand, sometimes the need "to impress upon others" can obliterate a creative work. This extends beyond Ego as Impetus, it propels writers into egotistical territory where arrogance and self-centeredness can propel things into certain ruin.

I have my biases here, but I'm willing to bet that nobody likes to be told what to think. I try to avoid that altogether as a poet. It's important to have authority, and conviction, but I'd rather roll that out in a landscape of words and images that people can access and work with independently and
on their own terms. People are smarter than they seem, and I know that, for myself, I appreciate it when a writer willingly makes room for other interpretations. That's a real gift, as opposed to a suffocating diatribe, which is a kind of artistic tyranny.

 

What role does form play in your poetry?

Knowlton:

Form is never the defining element, but it becomes important as the poem comes into being. I think of poems as landscapes, and I believe that our landscape says a lot about who we are, and who we can be, but it never says everything, and it shouldn’t. Just because you live in a canyon governed by shade doesn’t mean you can’t see the sun.

Sellman:

It's a secondary role. I'm an intuitive writer, I prefer to put the words on the page first and then to tend to the decisions of form afterward. I've learned that, for my own work, the form will emerge from the blob of first draft and take over. I trust in that as part of my process. For instance, many of my poems are syllabic--that is, after I've worked the stanzas, the enjambments and other structure around the emotional axis of a poem, I go back and count syllables and lines to discover that all the lines in the
poem have the exact same number of beats (8 is a recurring line count--reflecting a background in and appreciation for jazz? who knows). I did not write these poems that way consciously, it just happened. So I go with it, and try not to think too hard about it, since form seems to arrive
of its own volition. I don't mind it's mystery.


Now, as a fiction writer, my process is the complete opposite. I am deliberate, analytical, mathematical. Everything is planned. I function using vast numbers of lists, I "search and destroy" throughout entire manuscripts, I am a harsh and ruthless editor of my own work. I think maybe
I let my poems do what they want because I am afraid of flogging them to death (Billy Collins style!), tied to a chair...

 

Can you describe the writing process of your works published in Segue; in particular the use of language (metaphors, imagery, word choice)?

Knowlton:

This is a difficult question. Nice work. My writing process may be similar to collage, or to building blocks – it’s a process of rearranging. I don’t think that the metaphors are entirely conscious things. Imagery may be, as I am a very visual person. I love to see how light can change everything about the way we see. I am thinking of “A Lobsterman’s Sleeve,” mainly because it turned up in another question, but I see the startling, seemingly endless blue in the poem as a background, a solid, an inalterable thing, and the red of a lobster (and I haven’t seen a lobster in years, but it amazes and even upsets me how it turns scarlet in hot water). So, there, I haven’t really answered the question, except, possibly, if you read metaphorically. I’ll think about this though, and I’ll try to come up with a clearer answer.

 

Sellman:

Some of those originated as "dog poems." That is, I had this file of poems that really sucked. Since I can never throw anything away, I re-read each of these poems and pulled out the tiny nuggets of them and put them in a new file. At least I could salvage something from the dogs. Then I promptly and
unceremoniously deleted the rest.

Then, one day, I decided to reapproach the nuggets, usually just a line here, or a title there, and that's how some of the Segue poems became what they were. "February Ferry Ride" and "Outing in Seattle" were some awful self-portrait poems I wrote after moving back to Seattle from Chicago.
Blecch. They turned out okay, once I got rid of their "dog"ness.

Some of the Segue poems were taken out of fiction stories, reduced to moments that seemed more fitting as poems. "Child's Daydream" and "Clam Season" came from a short story that I have since tossed.

"On the Development of Clouds" was another poem I wrote and took to workshop and they all read it and blinked and asked me what it meant and I said "Hell if I know." I had taken the poem to workshop specifically because it had eluded me! So I deep-sixed the whole poem, but kept the title, and decided to go with the comparison between the clouds coming off the Olympic Mountains to the west of where I live and the physicality of children playing out in the front yard. Suddenly, it made sense, it brought together two things that I have come to know well in a baptism-by-fire kind of way: motherhood and the unpredictable tyranny of weather.

 

What is the best way to read your poetry?

Knowton:

Walking. Also, start in the middle of a poem. Rearrange the lines. Walk around some more.

Sellman:

Not sure I understand this question. There are two ways, I suppose. Read it to oneself or read it out loud. Do what works for you. I do both, either way reveals something the other doesn't. In fact, I enjoy reading other people's poems out loud, they take on enchanted meaning when heard aloud. What can I say, I learned it from the Bard!