From Fiction to Poetry
February 13, 2020
I hope this mentorship helps me bring my manuscript to the best of its potential, and that I learn a lot from my mentor about editing poems and structuring a collection. Having come from prose writing into poetry, I have often been told my writing was too expository, so I hope to find a balance between keeping my voice and rhythm and paring down the verbiage. Ultimately, I expect the mentorship to challenge me in ways I cannot envision now.
The oldest poems in my manuscript go back 13 years ago, to the first poetry workshop I took in Canada, at UBC. My writing directly reflects the life and perspective changes I’ve been through since. At a certain point, it became simply a matter of selecting those poems I thought were most relevant to the themes I saw developing throughout my body of work: leaving, being in a new place, learning how to exist in translation.
I handwrite whenever the mood strikes, usually during blank moments on transit, in waiting rooms, at lunch hour. I keep with me every old paper draft that has not yet been shaped into a poem, and I sift through them for inspiration. I am also part of a writing group, meeting twice a month, which generously provides me with motivation in the form of deadlines.
If I could choose an author to write a book about my life, it would depend what book that is. For a novel, I’d nominate Zadie Smith, who can make any life story feel epic. For a collection of linked short stories, names that resonate with me now are Ali Smith and Tove Jansson. For poetry, I’d take Marina Tsvetaeva in a heartbeat, but I’ve been trying to write that book myself.
Ten years from now, I have published the manuscript I’m currently working on, and I am at work on a new project. Whether I have published more collections or not, I have gained experience and insight through more mentorships and through the support of a writing community.
I am uncomfortable thinking in terms of an ideal world, or me as a ruler – I think I would make quite an inept ruler. My wish for my writing cohorts is that they could have a life where they afford to take entire blocks of time and dedicate them to writing, but without losing the sense of immersion into the world. Also, every writer should have access to a writing space/room of their own.
So far, the highlights of my writing life have consisted in getting direct feedback on my poetry, and I expect that will be the case in the future too. Conversely, a low point is that at which I become uninspired or simply lose the wish to write.