I love reading biographies about writers and interviews with writers. I love peering into their work space and coming to a greater understanding of how they operate. The current issue of The Writer’s Chronicle has an interview with one of my favorite contemporary poets, Kim Addonizzio. The interview, which is only available in print, covers a wide range of topics, and while it does not delve too much into Addonizzio’s specific writing process, it does provide some glimpses into it. For instance, she mentions listening to classical and jazz while composing new work, and maybe this shouldn’t come as surprise, since Addonizzio also plays music and frequently busts out her harmonica to play the blues after she reads a few poems or her fiction.
What’s more interesting about the interview, however, is what Addonizzio has to say about writing in different genres. She admits that some writers are purists and stick to only one genre, but she writes poetry, fiction, and essays. She is quick to note how writing poetry can help with other genres because it teaches a writer to develop precision of language and metaphorical thinking. This is why, when I used to teach creative writing, we always started with poetry, before delving into any other genre of writing. Poetry, as Addonizzio states, helps students focus on the importance of correct word choice and the weight of a single line, and though prose may be longer, those same rules should still apply. It may be typical, too, for us to start out in one genre, but there is no harm in expanding to other genres. She mentions starting out with poetry and then writing fiction when she was in her early 30s. Since then, she has published two novels and two short story collections.
It’s worth picking up the latest issue and reading the interview. It’s another window into a writer’s habits and work routine. For the teachers out there, there is good advice too, namely the importance of writing as both a teacher and a writer and always questioning the techniques a writer used and how that can be covered in the classroom, or turned into a writing prompt.