The end of February and the entire month of March have been filled with literary events. I attended the Associated Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference in Chicago. While there, I attended several readings and had an author signing with my press.
In March, I escaped Idaho for a bit on spring break and drove to Vancouver, B.C. While there I heard my amazing friend Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore read from her new anthology Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots? (I find myself driving 8.5 hours to attend a reading this year!)
This month I also attended a thesis defense for a fellow MFA poet here at the University of Idaho, a talk by the immanent translator Willis Barnstone, and also had my own reading and chapbook release party with fellow poet Ciara Shuttleworth.
It has been a busy forty days. Individually, these events invigorate my own writing and thinking about writing. Collectively, it has been exhausting. They have also made me consider the writer’s life both as a public and a private figure.
In a discussion yesterday, a fellow poet said, “A writer is the kind of person who sits alone in a room to make sense of the world.” The act of writing is solitary. At its core, writing lonely.
So then what happens when a writer publishes his or her work?
Most often, in order to get the work “out there” a writer must make some kind of public appearance, whether that is online, at a bookstore, or in a coffee shop to read. The reader, in order to promote their words, must become an extension of them in some sense.
Your writing is an extension of your inner-world, but then you the writer must become an extension of your words in the public sphere. Who is leap-frogging whom?
For many writers, this is a painful process. I know that in my own experience, I dislike talking about my poems to others. I also hate the cycle of self-promotion that occurs with the publication of a book. That said, I am finding that having my chapbook come out is a great way to get a small taste for the hustle one must go through to promote a full-length book.
The poet Richard Siken is notorious for remaining circumspect about his own work. He said in an interview, “You get the page. I get the rest.”
What role does writing play in your life at the moment? Have you experienced the divide between the writer as a public and private figure? Do you have any advice moving from one sphere into the other?