16 June 2009

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

[from a series of letters from Mei-mei Berssenbrugge to the editors in American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language, eds. Claudia Rankine & Juliana Spahr, Wesleyan, 2002]

Letter Nine

As for compositional method, I can't concentrate, so I think of an idea for a poem and just hold it in mind. I'm thinking a matrix of the idea, emotion, scene. I gather quotes from disparate selected books, cultural criticism, philosophy, Buddhism, and daily life, a few hundred notes. I cut them out and lay them out as a map of the area of the poem on a big table, plus pictures. Then over a few intense days, I write a very rough first draft, which I edit for a long time. At first I appropriated the quotes, but recently they've become more and more transformed. The whole process is very loose, to keep unconscious, and then I clarify later.

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