“Although the square or rectangle of a sheet of paper – short or long, small or large – may influence the shape of the poem, I like to allow the words to find their own voice and presence on a sheet of paper.”
I allow the form to rise from the fall of the words inside my head. Sometimes an image or a phrase will be enough to propel the poem so that everything flows from that kernel. Or sometimes a phrase or a verse becomes a riff that asks to be repeated as anaphora or refrain. Although the square or rectangle of a sheet of paper – short or long, small or large – may influence the shape of the poem, I like to allow the words to find their own voice and presence on a sheet of paper. I cannot write the first draft on the computer. I must feel my way to the shape of the poem by writing by hand using pen or pencil in the initial stages. Once I have completed a first draft, I can revise the piece on the computer but do find myself printing off drafts to view on paper between revisions.
It is true that I prefer left justification (easier to read) and approximately similar length verses (looks tidier) but use that norm as a point of departure for more expressive and varying dramatic lengths. In short, I like the internal music of the line to take hold and allow the line breaks to dramatize the subject matter. I abhor chopped lines, though I have been guilty of them, and sometimes at their most prosy. Sometimes a poem calls for repetition as in a musical score but I listen for unintentional blips of repeated words that lose power on being repeated.
Although I have tried writing in other genres (none published), I long ago decided that I must concentrate on writing poems exclusively so that one day I can write, if not the perfect poem, a couple of good ones that may even be remembered by somebody. (A high hope, indeed…)
gillian harding-russell’s most recent publication is In Another Air (Radiant Press, 2018), which was shortlisted for a Saskatchewan Book Award.