Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My List of 30 Inspirations -- 26-30

Now that I'm finished with my list of inspirations, and I'm officially 30 as of today, I am wondering what other writers out there are inspired by. I'd love to hear from you on the big and little things that inspire you to write and create.

26 -- My Girl Heroes

When I was in college, I had a connection with a pretty inspiring group of women. I admired them (and still admire them) so much that I called them my girl heroes. (It was the late 90's, so I called them my grrrl heroes, actually.) We were all aspiring writers and artists at the time and we created our own little artistic community. It has been my pleasure to remain friends with them and see how they all have incorporated their art into their lives. Even though we live all across the country, I can still admire their art from afar. All of us, in our own ways, have remained dedicated to our work.

27 -- Oulipo

I learned about the French Oulipo poetic movement after reading Harryette Mullen's strange and wonderful book Sleeping With the Dictionary. She utilized one of Oulipo's common poetic forms, S+7, where you replace a received text's nouns with the noun 7 positions ahead in the dictionary. The result are poems which are surreal and insightful, at the same time. I personally have experimented with the S+7 form, but I haven't written anything truly remarkable.

Lucille Clifton is one of those poems who is awe-inspiring to me. In some of her best works, like The Terrible Stories, her language is so simple and heart-wrenching. I find her so accessible to read and to teach, which is a joy when you teach poetry to students who hate it. (Or think that they do.) Clifton also is just a remarkable example of a working poet; she has fostered her career for over 30 years, without sacrificing her identity or her other work as a teacher.

29 -- Dreams

Lately, sleep has been on my mind. Part of it is because of my struggles with insomnia over the past year. But part of it is a poet's fascination with the subconscious, with the anachronistic combination of daily minutiae and hidden desires. Other poets have tread these waters, most notably recently, Li Young-Lee and Elizabeth Alexander. I don't know what I can add to this already rich dialogue, but I can't stop including it in my writing.

30 -- Formal Poetry

I know it's 2007 and formal poetry is passe. But formal poetry, for me, provides a level of precision and discipline that free verse does not. When I write in form, I know that there isn't a syllable to spare. I also know that I am (at times) hiding behind the artifice of the form, which intellectualizes my writing. But there are times when a good villanelle can help me access feelings I wouldn't be able to access, without the use of refrain and rhyme. I can't live with it, but I can't quite live without it either.