First of all, I would like to thank rob for asking me to participate in this, and whoever may read this!
How is anything created really? How is art created? This may not even make sense, it might be just a bunch of rambling on my part. The creative process, like life, is so rarely easy and clean, despite what we would like.
I wish I could say I have a very structured organized way of writing but that would be a lie. How do poems get started for me? Often, it’s from a word, a phrase, something I read, or saw that sparks something within me. I can sit with an idea for days or even years before a poem comes forth from it. I don’t write poems as much as poems write themselves, I think. It doesn’t make much sense at times. I think artists are a conduit, or maybe vessel, is a better word that put what we’re surrounded by – emotions, stories, memories, etc. into something tangible that resonates with others, or that’s the hope at least.
I start with a very loose structure. I’d say I write in a circle, in that I start with a word, phrase, or an image, and then form the poem around it. I start in the middle and write outwards. The beginnings and end of poems are usually the last things I write.
I write everywhere – in notebooks, on my computer, on scraps of paper, on my hands, my phone, in my head. I think all these different mediums have their advantages and disadvantages. I used to (and still do, but maybe less so) struggle a lot with the editing process because I’d sit and stare at the poem on my screen, and it just wouldn’t work. But now, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to walk away from a poem or work, and just let it breathe. It’ll come. Often times, when I’m doing something else, completely unrelated, something will just click. It’ll come.
For me, in writing, I’m intrigued by both how it looks on the page, and how it sounds out loud. When I’m writing, a lot of it is done out loud, repeating words, phrases, or just ideas to myself, and hearing how it sounds. In regard to line breaks, that’s something that I usually add after to be honest. When I first write, my work is usually just a stream of all the ideas going through my head at the time. I just let it all out, no line breaks, no structure really, just let the poetry or story out. Then I go back (sometimes immediately, sometimes later) and read what emerges, taking out what doesn’t work, reworking sections, and adding line breaks as I see fit.
In writing this way, I am often surprised myself at what comes from it. In that what I set out to write about is not always what the poem ends up being about. Or the poem will go in a very different direction than I’ve intended. Or split into to separate poems. Sometimes the poem just goes where it wants.
I do find reoccurring themes or threads in a lot of my work, which isn’t always intentional. I had someone point out to me that there is a lot of water imagery in a lot of my work, and looking back, I was like huh, there is. For reasons I can’t completely articulate yet, I’ve always been drawn in by water, the connection to life, to women, to history, and that manifests in my work.
There are always writers in the back of my mind. I think that’s true of every writer, we are inspired by what we read, which is why it’s so important to do so. Currently, I'm reading On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and Sisters' Entrance by Emtithal Mahmoud. Other writers that have influenced me/I love to read are Michael Ondaatje, Warsan Shire, Nayyirah Waheed, Ysrah-Daley Ward, Aime Cesaire, Tsitsi Jaji, and so many others (I could go on forever). One of the things that I’m excited about now that I’m done school, is to have time to read more, and just enjoy it. And slowly fall back into writing more. While I’m always writing in some capacity, I haven’t been doing a lot of submitting recently, more focused on just falling into writing slowly, taking my time, enjoying the process. That’s the beautiful thing about writing that I love, you can always come back to it, at your own pace. It doesn’t tie you down, but it grows with you, and gives you space to learn, grow, and expand. And I think that’s really important.
We are surrounded by stories and poetry, Sarah Kabamba just wants to share some of them with you. She is of Congolese origins, and lives in Ottawa, where she is (slowly) working on a poetry collection.