“Living near trails is a must for great writing.”
Moods of the Dream Fog (Finishing Line Press, 2016)
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
The oldest poem in the chapbook is “Visitor at Tsaile Lake.” I was living in Tsaile, Arizona, as a visitor on the Navajo Nation. This poem came about during a walk to and around Tsaile Lake, where I was greeted by a cow, wild horses, white pelicans, fishermen, Navajo women in a pickup, and a truck of men stuck in mud. The American Southwest is but a dream. Am I a dream? In a dream? The prose poem unfolds.
Another poem entitled “Morning Beat” might have contributed to the inspiration of the chapbook. It takes place in the Land of Enchantment where I now reside. The otherworldly light and low-slung sky gets my creative fire burning like no other place. There’s a dreaminess to New Mexico. I can practically reach up and lasso the clouds. For me, the American Southwest is a live-and-let-live spacious place, and, what can I say? The air is conducive to reflecting and dreaming.
“Morning Beat” is a poem that takes place on an enchanted summer morning. I witnessed bright clusters of sunflowers bending over a New Mexican lake, and the colors green, yellow and orange appeared beautifully on the water and swirled into an unusual abstract pattern. I felt like I had been thrown into a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.
Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?
The process begins with waking up early (between 4-5 a.m.), eating breakfast, and hitting the page. Brainstorming occurs during daily walks that last 45-60 minutes. I call it Mojo Walking. I generally work from notepad to computer. The notebook consists of clusters (or clouds) of notes akin to doodling. Much of my creative work is influenced by the American Southwest’s natural world, imagination, dreams, observation, and experience.
How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?
Spontaneously while in a dream fog. The book is organized into color shades that denote the emotional impact of various moods.
What are you working on now?
In the realm of creative writing, I am working on a book of flash fictions and a second poetry chapbook tentatively entitled A Shifting of the Moods, which is a continuation of Moods of the Dream Fog. I hope the book reveals growth.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chapbook authors?
Submit! Do not take rejection personally. Keep thriving.
What music do you listen to as you work and write?
It depends on what I’m writing. Most often Vivaldi, Bach, Native American flute, Beck, Coldplay, David Bowie, Diana Krall, Radiohead. But when I get in the zone, I crank up the hard rock. I normally tune into 94 Rock, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Without stopping to think, who are ten poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least your clothing, to take with you at all times?
Mary Oliver, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Arlene Ang, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Seamus Heaney, Robert Frost, Tu Fu and others. I’m particularly fond of the Greatest Generation poets and earlier.
Why the chapbook? What made it the right format for your work?
I published quite a number of poems in literary journals. It was time to start organizing them into a book. There are only a few that have not been previously published. I gathered together the best poems that happened to be quite dreamy, thus selecting the title and format.
When I entered Moods of the Dream Fog in the Finishing Line Press contest, I was offered publication.
How has your writing and writing practiced evolved? What old habits have you dropped and are there any new ones you’ve picked up that you’d like to share?
My writing evolves by developing patience, a stick-to-it-iveness, and by allowing the writing to let it have its say. As Roald Dahl once said,”The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him.”
I come out of my shell when I write. I take my time. I’m at my best writing-self when close to Mother Earth. Living near trails is a must for great writing.
An old habit I’ve tried to drop and spot easily is “forced” writing. This is when the ego guides the pen rather than the heart. Over time, I’ve developed a keen eye for writing that tries too hard.
If you’d like to know more about my own process in the generating of poems, such as the ones in the new chapbook Moods of the Dream Fog, read my craft essay “The Poetry of Walking” in Empty Mirror literary magazine.
Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?
I’m not really sure. Perhaps the poem “Passion Fog.” A few poems included in Moods of the Dream Fog are a result of dream exercises. This happens to be one of them.
A notepad is placed on the night stand. I wake up in the night and jot down notes about dreams. I later implement details, extras, and endings. These exercises create fascinating poems.
I do not believe in telling readers how to interpret works or else the whole creative process of artistic experience is lost. I wrote the poem. I do not own the interpretation.
What kinds of writing (comics, dictionaries, magazines, novels, etc.) that aren’t poetry help you to write poetry?
Copywriting. Fiction. Magazines. Column writing. Food writing.
What do you wish you had been told as a writer? What wisdom have you arrived at?
Not to do it, because, if you do, you can’t stop. I wouldn’t recommend anyone be a writer, unless it’s a part of their soul. If it is then, of course, go for it.
Thank you for the lighthearted questions.
blurbs for Moods of the Dream Fog here
pre-publication order information here
pre-publication sales start now and end Apr 22nd
advance sales determine print-run and ship June 17, 2016
Wendy Gist is the author of Moods of the Dream Fog. Her poems and prose have been featured in Amsterdam Quarterly, Burningword, Glint Literary Journal, Gravel, Grey Sparrow Journal, Juked, Poetry Pacific, The Lake (UK), Oyez Review, Soundings Review, Toad Suck Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and many other fine journals. A native Arizonan, she now lives in New Mexico, where she serves as co-founding editor of Red Savina Review. Her articles, essays, and columns have been seen in leading regional, national, and international magazines.
Disintegrate external talk
into tactile trance.
No need to say
Misty pull: adored gent’s
playful sentiment, analgesic.
He piques her:
amatory animal gaze, soft
smile, with a carnal ‘umm’
at the back of tongue.
Way too damn fine,
he throbs in a nebulous haze.
She craves his breath
at jugular, ear,
but capture it not
upon the teary December fog.
She can’t tell, up till now,
if he strives to bite
or kiss tender.