Wednesday, April 18, 2018

On Writing #150 : Eleonore Schönmaier

Writing as Motion
Eleonore Schönmaier

Thinking actively as a way of creating poems happens in my life now almost as intuitively as breathing. If the days are overly busy with other necessary work the writing may be less but few days in my life exist without a poem lingering on the edges. I however need an enormous amount of space around my thoughts to write a truly great poem.

When I want my thoughts to unspool in new creative ways I turn to vivid distractions such as wonderful conversations and long-distance walking. Matthew Bevis writes, "Distraction is a time between times, a time in which we become momentarily subject to the non-thought inside thought. And this is the time-or one of the times-of poetry. Attention can be helpful later on as part of the process of revision, but for vision itself poets stand in need of distraction." Many times I write my poems in my mind while I'm in motion:  walking or cycling.  I often carry a camera but rarely carry a notebook and I have to keep new poems alive in my mind until I'm home.  The actual writing is a form of memory and memorising.

When I perform on stage together with musicians, I recite my poems from memory. The work of memorising for the performances is in a sense returning the poems to their origins.

For a new poem I begin with the visual followed by sound so that my poems are paintings and music before they become words. Henri Cartier-Bresson said, "To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." The same is true for my life and work as a poet.

Learning how to write was for me like learning to swim: blissful immersion combined with forward motion. And with time I could cover longer and longer distances and I now also float with greater ease. When high waves wash over me I've learned how to breathe without swallowing water and in true storms the poems themselves become the life raft. Last summer while waiting in the emergency department I calmly recited the many memorised poems in my mind. They're like the beating of my heart: the words never cease in their calm or rapid-pulse presence.

Eleonore Schönmaier’s most recent book is Dust Blown Side of the Journey from McGill-Queen’s University Press. Her other collections are the critically acclaimed Wavelengths of Your Song (2013) and Treading Fast Rivers (1999). Her poetry has been set to music by Canadian, Dutch, Scottish, American and Greek composers including Emily DoolittleCarmen Braden and Michalis Paraskakis. The New European Ensemble has performed her poetry in concert. She has won the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, the Earle Birney Prize, and was a Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize winner. Her poetry has been widely anthologized, has been translated into Dutch and German, and has been published in Best Canadian Poetry

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