Lavina Blossom grew up in rural Michigan. She divides her creative hours between poetry and painting (primarily collage and mixed media). She has an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of California, Irvine, and her poems have appeared in various journals, including The Paris Review, The Literary Review, and Kansas Quarterly, as well as in the online journal Poemeleon. Her short story “Blue Dog” appeared in the online journal Women Writers. She is an Associate Editor of Poetry for Inlandia: a Literary Journey.
It might be a push-button phone
or one with a dial, or a numbered scrap
of burlap tacked to the wall at which
I toss croutons, stones, hacky sacks.
Once, it was a stack
of drawers I had to pull out
and push back in the right sequence. Always,
I’m inept, my core strength gone, my fingers,
wrist, hands jerking or slipping. The dial tone
continues, the videographer nudges me, says
I’ve neglected to enter the area code. I try
again and again to call until
I’m certain it’s far too late.
I’ve been told that if I can decipher
its meaning this recurring dream of needing
to reach someone and failing will cease,
but I suspect I’ve grown too adept at keeping
secrets from myself. Isn’t this a symptom–that I’ve
developed tremendous skill at losing small
objects around the house?
Oh, sometimes I find them, but rarely
before they have lost their usefulness.
Which actually gives me a snippet of hope. Perhaps
on the day my limbs have gone slack and my
mind floats feather-light, the tunnels might
clear, a light appear, and the bolts of gauze unwind
so that I spontaneously connect. Then,
I might perceive in my innermost
ear and eye what I can’t
let myself acknowledge yet.
Describe your creative process generally. Do you start from the beginning, middle, or end, or a mix?
Often, I have a feeling that a particular subject or idea–something I am especially interested in writing about–will lead me into a successful poem. It doesn’t always happen, but that feeling is what drives me to persist until I either have a poem or realize this is one to put aside. I rarely abandon an impulse or idea altogether.
Other times, I might be most interested in taking on a challenge. For example, a friend challenged me some time ago to write a sonnet, since I hadn’t attempted one yet. I wrote several, and although I don’t think they were very good, it’s a confidence-builder to write in a way you haven’t before and discover what you will along the way. When I learned about Prompt & Circumstance, I was eager to try to shape a poem using one or more of the prompts and I am sure that generated good energy and focus.
After that first flash or the first meanderings of an idea, the heart of the finished poem might have shifted away from the first lines I wrote down. It can take a while to actually find what the poem needs to be, both in its details and at its core. But that first spark will be there somewhere. For me, finding just the right ending can be the toughest part of the process.
How do you go about revising a poem and when do you know when a piece is finished?
Usually I revise as I draft a poem and many times thereafter. Then, I set the poem aside for a while to give myself a better perspective. An incongruity or inconsistency can seem obvious after a little time has passed–maybe just a few hours or a day, but there have been instances when I needed to be away from a piece much longer. I also paint and the process is similar. After I’ve worked on a painting for a while, I walk away and try not to think about it so that I have fresh eyes when I return. In fact, with both poems and paintings, I know to turn away and go back a few times before I can be pretty sure the thing is finished.
Also, I am fortunate to be part of a wonderful poetry workshop and I take a few poems each year to this group for discussion. Having the insights of other writers (and visual artists) that I respect has been invaluable.
Describe the inspiration or process of creating “Recurring Dream.”
Luckily, “stack of drawers” triggered a memory. I had a dream years ago in which bureau drawers were a kind of phone, and, as in other variations on that recurring dream, I could not get an urgent call to go through. In the process of revising, I tried to work in more of the suggested words, which was a lot of fun, and at one point I even had “muskrat” in there. But the image seemed to dominate, being a little too goofy, and it drew attention away from the message of the poem. Replacing “muskrat” with “hacky sacks,” I was able to keep the rhyme.
Does your writing tend to be factual, fictionalized, or some combination of the two? What about this piece in particular?
“Recurring Dream” is a narrative and my poetry often is narrative. This poem is about a personal experience, but I elaborate and invent and I was pleased that the prompts helped to bring a couple of surprising images to life. My goal is never to relate facts or stick to facts, but to write the strongest poem that I can. In this one, I wanted to capture the sense of frustration that I feel in these dreams and move closer, if possible, to understanding why I have them, or at least write an interesting poem about that mystery.
What is the earliest thing you remember writing?
I wrote limericks, with my mother’s help, when I was very young. My mother has always been fun-loving and supportive. So, at first I wrote for the pure joy of it. I think that was a very fortunate beginning.
I can’t recall the first poem I wrote on my own, but a few were published in my high school newspaper. I’m sure those were self-indulgent and full of angst. The recognition and encouragement, though, allowed me to believe I could go farther and be, possibly, a really good writer. You never “arrive” of course, and although I have had some stretches when the poems went nowhere, I kept coming back to the page, struggling to make art out of a wide variety of impulses, emotions and thoughts.
Suggested words to be used as future prompts!
pamper, fine, sedimentary, escarpment, cranium
“Author Spotlight” highlights the work that talented writers have been creating based off our monthly prompts and submitting to us. These pieces of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction are all in the running for our Spring 2014 contest and publication in Issue 3 of Promptly! To learn more about submitting your own work, check out our Submissions page.