Poetry News

'Sometimes a poem, like any other machine, breaks. Or sputters. Or has a whiny wheel': An Interview with Maggie Smith

By Harriet Staff

Maggie Smith took part in this Columbus Alive! interview as part of their "Technique Talk" feature, which spotlights the process of a Columbus artist.

A sample:

What kind of art do you make and why?
I make poems — what William Carlos Williams called “small (or large) machine[s] made of words.” There’s something deeply satisfying about making one of these machines — choosing the tools and raw materials, planning how everything will work together, tinkering with it to make it run faster or more smoothly, whatever the case may be, and finally seeing it work.

When do you write?
I’m not one of those disciplined, “I write for an hour every day” or “I write at least 1,000 words a day” people. I write when an idea or a few lines come to mind, and I need to get them down before I lose them. I like to write in the morning, and I do that when I can, but my free time is usually in the evening, so I make that work.

How often do you write?
I often work in spurts. Some weeks or months I seem to be constantly writing or at least revising existing drafts, and other times my brain seems to be taking a breather. But I’m happiest when it seems the ideas are coming faster than I can get them down.

Where do you write and why?
I tend to work at home, mostly out of necessity, because I have two small children. I almost always write longhand first (I know, how 20th century of me!) in notebooks or on legal pads, and then once the poem has started to take shape, I go ahead and type what I have on my laptop and go from there. So the poems begin on paper but are revised and tinkered with on the computer. Thank god for the cut, paste, and undo keystrokes.

Full interview here.

Originally Published: December 17th, 2012