This is the af­ter­life, but I’m not dead. I’m just here in this field. —from “Death of a Child” Jenny Ge­orge


Poets and Writers - - The Literary Life -

HOW IT BE­GAN: The in­quiry in these po­ems is shaped by the ques­tion: How much of our alive­ness can we bear? An­other way of ask­ing that is: How much of our own ca­pac­ity for vi­o­lence must we tol­er­ate in or­der to be fully awake? At the same time, I was very in­ter­ested in hu­mans’ com­plex, emo­tion­ally charged de­pen­dence on an­i­mal life and in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween an­i­mal con­scious­ness, dream con­scious­ness, and child­hood. These threads met in my work.

IN­SPI­RA­TION: Fields and rivers; pigs and cows; ob­ject re­la­tions the­ory; Texas Hill Coun­try; si­lence and soli­tude; Carl Jung; farm­ing manuals; mys­tic tra­di­tions; con­ver­sa­tions with my sis­ter; dreams.

IN­FLU­ENCES: I grew up in Amherst, Mas­sachusetts, the town where Emily Dick­in­son lived her whole life. Dick­in­son’s lan­guage was some of the first po­etry I heard; that mu­si­cal­ity and com­pres­sion is still very much in me. I love Au­dre Lorde and Adri­enne Rich for po­lit­i­cal work with beauty and for­mal rigor. And Brigit Pegeen Kelly for re­straint and mythic in­tel­li­gence. I also read a lot of psy­cho­anal­y­sis. I read it like it’s po­etry, in other words: to be moved, ar­rested, brought into re­la­tion­ship with my own in­te­rior.

WRITER’S BLOCK REM­EDY: I re­mind my­self that lan­guage isn’t my job. Writ­ing a poem isn’t my job. My job is the hu­man job of wait­ing and lis­ten­ing, and lan­guage is just what po­ets use—like wind chimes—to catch the sound of the larger, more es­sen­tial thing. Wind chimes them­selves are not the point. The point is the wind.

AD­VICE: All the best ad­vice I’ve been given is some form of the same ad­vice: A writ­ing life is a long process, and en­gage­ment with the work it­self is the an­ti­dote to fear and to anx­i­ety around your ca­reer. The prac­tice is to move with­out at­tach­ment in a pur­pose­ful di­rec­tion to­ward what it is you don’t know.

AGE: 40. RES­I­DENCE: Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. JOB: I work in so­cial-jus­tice phi­lan­thropy. TIME SPENTWRIT­ING THE BOOK: Eight years. TIME SPENT FIND­ING A HOME FOR IT: One year.

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