Contributor Spotlight: Jo Brachman

Jo Brachman photoJo Brachman’s “In the Air” is featured in Issue 71 of the Bellingham Review.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

The path of the poem becomes clearer over time. I had no idea at first where “In the Air” was going, and did not have a destination in mind. I tend to write long which means my poems provide ample opportunity for edits. “In the Air” was typical and was initially at least four times its present length. At the time, I was writing many couple/relationship poems. I played around with different toxins that the couple could be allergic to which somehow led to exploring the path that arguments can often take: emotional distance, silence, regret, and finally a shift that, rather than offering a complete resolution, provides a moment to come together again.

Tell us about your writing life.

It is the process of “not knowing” where the poem is taking me, the surprise, and as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks of the creative process in his book, Flow, it is serious play that is one of the catalysts that fuels my desire to write.

Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?

Inspiration is vast and could include anything, anywhere. To name a few: Italy, specifically the hill towns in Umbria that I have now visited four times; snippets of overheard conversations; movies; meditation; science; the brain; learning a foreign language, nature; music; art; history; non-verbal communication; taking walks, the part of the iceberg of life that isn’t showing; and any small thing that might happen within a regular day that can suddenly take on numinous meaning for the individual observing it.

What writing advice has stayed with you?

I was fortunate to attend a workshop sponsored by Poetry@Tech through Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Laure-Anne Bosselaar, the workshop leader, besides giving fantastic technical advice, also reminded us that fewer and fewer people in this country are serious readers. Of those, only some read poetry, and, even fewer read poetry on a regular basis. She suggested that this humbling fact can keep our egos and competition in check, and in this small pond made up of poetry lovers, we poets should, simply put, be nice to each other, and support one another in any way we can.
Other helpful writing advice: What some would call failure—is actually—a necessary component in the process of improving your writing skills. Do not fear it. Do not avoid it. Keep Reading. Keep Writing.

What is your favorite book (or essay, poem, short story)? Favorite writer(s)?

Such a hard question to narrow down and the list will definitely be incomplete.  Barbara Ras, Elizabeth Bishop, Laura Kasischke, Angie Estes, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Dorianne Laux, Erin Belieu, Frank Stanford, James Dickey, Tom Lux, Ruth Stone, Judy Jordan, Lucia Perillo, Mary Szybist, Paisley Rekdal, and so many more.

What are you reading right now?

As a rule, I have several books going at once and my Kindle allows me to steal reading time here and there. At the moment I am re-reading Kent Haruf’s novel Plainsong and have just begun Johnathan Franzen’s Purity. For poetry, Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass. And for short stories, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.

I don’t know why I read this way, but I like the different voices bumping up against each other and the interplay of signature rhythms happening within a close time frame of each other.

What project(s) are you working on now, or next?

Of several projects I am working on, I am also editing and submitting a group of poems which may find their way into a book.

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

Many think my early to bed/early to rise writing schedule is interesting and quirky until they find out it is the very thing that makes me a lousy supper invite, especially in Italy where it is customary to begin eating after 8 p.m.

I normally go to sleep when toddlers are put to bed. I awaken early, usually 4 a.m. every morning and write and read until my regular workday begins. I have done this now for over seven years. I love the quiet, dark morning time when I am drifting somewhere between a dream and reality of the day. Some mornings are more productive than others but showing up apparently is a necessity for me to stay sane. And I don’t have to worry about paralyzing writer’s block as long as I remember William Stafford’s strategy concerning prolific writing— Lower your standards.

JO BRACHMAN’s work appears or is forthcoming in: Birmingham Poetry Review, Poetry East, The Southern Poetry Anthology by Texas Review Press, Waccamaw Journal, Town Creek Poetry, San Pedro River Review, Tar River Poetry, Moon City Review, Poet Lore, and Cimarron. She attends the low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program at Pacific University in Portland, Oregon, and lives with her husband just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.