Wednesday, May 11, 2016

On Writing #94 : Valerie Coulton

On Writing
Valerie Coulton

When I started writing regularly, I would go to a café with some books and read around in them until a stream of language appeared for me. Then I would try to capture that language in its unrefined state.

Later I would go back to select attractive words or lines from the stream. Not so much editing, more extracting my own language as though found.


And then it was about being in a conversation, usually with one person, sometimes another writer, sometimes alive, sometimes “not”.

Maybe that’s the thing I’ve found to be the most interesting aspect of my own writing, the sense of a language stream that comes from and goes to “somewhere else”. Getting in touch with this stream is easier in the context of a long project or series.


I put some things away for years, then read them again to see what I think outside the proximity of writing. Other things feel ready to serve. I couldn’t say what makes the difference.


In my day job, working with designers, I read a lot about creative process. The same things come up over and over again: find stimuli, get as much stuff "out" as you can, set some constraints to work against, iterate, take on feedback from people who really get what you're doing (and ignore the ones who don't). All of these have been invaluable to me, and I come back to them again and again. Especially stimuli and constraints, two infallible ways of dipping into the stream.


It's occurred to me lately that writing is a form of dreaming for me. It bends time. I'm alone and not alone. Familiar elements appear in new guises.


After my father died, I didn't really feel like writing for a long time. Now I'm starting again, patiently, without a lot of expectation. It's not a continuation or a beginning; it's like seeing someone again after a long time. Will we feel the same way or some new way? Will we still want to spend time together?


we are meeting in the halo
feet in sneakers

his enormous pages
the way blood crowds his face

sea of land of sea
                  little cloud meal

Valerie Coulton is a poet living in Barcelona. She has written Anonymous and Lirio with Edward Smallfield, both from dancing girl press. Her other books are open book, The Cellar Dreamer and passing world pictures, all from Apogee Press. New poems are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly.

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