When did you start writing poetry?
I began reading when I was 3 years old. I was an only child and books were dear friends to me. My first book was “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. I memorized many of those poems–loved the rhythm of them–the dance-like quality of the images. I first wrote a poem when I was about 6 years old.
When did you write your first book and what motivated it?
My first book was a chapbook titled “An Apparent Approachable Light.” I had been entering a few poems here and there and came across this contest for anEditor’s Choice prize from Astra Press and won it. The prize was publishing and I was thrilled. I still love that little book. Motivation? Ad liberabo linguae atque cordis–To free the tongue and the heart. I had some dark stuff buried inside myself as many many people do and needed to release those things.
What’s your writing process?
I’m a pretty disciplined writer. I get up, get coffee (either at home or out), and write for a good part of the day; sometimes all day if it’s going well. I start by reading something(s)–poems, selections from novels or non-fiction titles. I think about what I’ve read for a while, then look at the previous day’s work. It’s a rare day when I don’t write.
What are your favorite subject matters for poetry?
I don’t know about favorites. Things catch my eye/ear: conversations on a bus or in a coffee shop, a photo, a note on a bulletin board, a movie poster, song lyrics, overheard arguments, secrets told to me, secrets KEPT from me. Often, I visit places I do not wish to go and write from those places: challenges, deep fears, griefs, anger, frustration etc.
While reading your poetry I see L.A. has a great influence. Would you like to expand on that?
I’m so glad you asked about that. Los Angeles is my woman, my mother, my sister, my lover, my friend, my monster. I am L.A ’s slave and her bitch and her partner and her conqueror and her patient and her most fervent fan. Los Angeles has been my comfort and sometimes a dangerous companion. I love this city as much as I have loved any person.
What are some pivotal moments in your writing career?
First would have to be my meeting with and relationship to the poet Larry Kramer (R.I.P.) I attended a workshop he gave around 1983 and it changed me and my work forever. He became teacher, mentor, friend, brother to me. He paid for and helped me get into a summer writing program at Bennington College in Vermont. He taught me more about poetry–about my relationship to and my responsibility to poetry– than anyone has since. Everything that I’ve done since meeting him has been with his soul at my shoulder like an angel–always teaching, always criticizing, always praising. His book, “Brilliant Windows,” is a masterpiece. You’d love it, Sonia.
Another pivotal moment was meeting a woman, a novelist/photographer, at Bennington. Her name is Elizabeth Dumbell. We became very close friends and our talks about writing, about what it means, can mean, doesn’t mean, have stayed with me for over 30 years. She told me something I have turned over and over in my mind at various stages in my writing life. During a very dry period, I asked her advice about getting over a writing block. She said, “There are characters, words, images, phrases knocking at the door of your mind and heart. Just relax, answer the door, and let them in.” It works every time.
Love this insight. I will use it in my writing.
What was your inspiration for “Take the Long Way Home”?
The song, “Take the Long Way Home” by Supertramp is a favorite of mine. Especially the lyric I used for the book’s epigraph:
So, when the day comes to settle down,
Who’s to blame if you’re not around?
You took the long way home…
Taking the long way home means stopping, looking, paying close attention to the details. It’s important to really taste and smell and hear and DIG what is going on in front of me and all around me. You can’t take shortcuts and have that experience. You have to take the long way home to see what is really there.
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