Angie Macri: Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Sandy Longhorn for including me in this tour and
being willing to host me on here. 
Since this is her blog, I won’t speak in introduction of her or her
accomplishments, and since I’ve known her so long, I’m at a loss because
there’re so many things to say.  So
I will say what she might not even realize:  that she is an earnest woman, concerned with not only place
but justice, and that is something that comes through not only her poems but
her self.  Such a genuine heart is
a rarity, and it is at the core of her words.
What am I
working on?
Lately I’ve been trying to promote my first book, a chapbook,
Fear Nothing of the Future or the Past.  To keep overhead low, pre-order sales
determine the press run, and I’ve been trying not to worry about that.  I’m also beginning to plan readings for
the book.  My idea is to reach out
to small libraries in Arkansas this summer.  I was awarded an Arkansas Arts Council fellowship years back
and that is how I thought I might give back to the state.
There are other manuscripts, too, full-length collections.  One is making the rounds and seems well
received but not enough to be selected for publication.  One has developed from the chapbook,
with those poems as its core. 
Another is called Walking Liberty,
which explores issues of freedom for the American woman.  And another seems to be forming from
poems related to apples and roses.  The pieces come as they may and I sort them when I can.
How does
my work differ from others of its genre?
When I was studying creative writing in school, a professor told
me, you know, successful poets aren’t nice people.  With the possible exception of Bishop.  Bless him, half the time he didn’t even
call me by the right name, but what he said stuck so well that my first thought
when I saw this question was still this: 
the way that I differ from other poets is that I’m not as good as other
poets.  I might be nice, but I’ll
never make it.
At first, his comment led to efforts to make my work match
others.  To push myself to Do What
I’m Supposed to Do.  I struggled
with that for a long time.  And
then I said forget that, I’ll write how and what I want.  Through this liberation, I have written
pieces that are mine.  But I still
have phases when I struggle.
Why do I
write what I do?
My father started his education at a community college.  His first class was in composition, and
he had to analyze the poetry of Robert Frost.  My father had grown up in Brooklyn, a first-generation
American, and poetry wasn’t part of his world.  He had gone to a technical high school so he was well
educated in math and science, but not in reading or writing.  He was being trained for a technical
job, so literature wasn’t thought as being important for his well being.  He had lost his mom to cancer and then
was lost himself, bouncing around, ending up in the Midwest working in a
cannery.  That wasn’t the future he
wanted, and he knew college was the key to something different.  But there he was and poetry was alien
to him. 
He only got a C in the class, he would tell you, but he
swore that if you could understand poetry, you could understand anything.  No text intimidated him after
that.  He took his newfound powers
of analysis and continued his education, eventually earning a Ph.D. in
educational philosophy.  His
students’ lives were better because of that one class, and so was mine.
But more important than the tangible success of his
education is what I also mentioned: 
that after his mother’s death, he was lost.  Poetry was the way he found solace, freedom, hope, even in
the face of his grief.  Through
poetry he realized he wasn’t alone, and that such communion is timeless and
even beautiful.  He never
articulated this to me in these exact words, but I realized them through him in
He wrote in the margins of his books, and as soon as I could
hold a pencil, he let me draw, then write in the margins of his notebooks.  He loved nature and science, art and
philosophy.  Nothing was out of our
reach, nor why should we assume that it should be?  Such exploration, such harmony, such basis on tradition and
then reaction and movement out and back is natural to me. 
These are things I have come to understand as he suffers now
with Alzheimer’s.  I write what I
do because of him. And I work to honor him and my mother who loves him, and to
offer hope, even in the face of this horror.   
How does
my writing process work?
It doesn’t work the way that I wish it could.  I would like to be able to
concentrate.  I wonder, if I could,
what could I do?  But it isn’t in
the cards right now.  Working at a
community college, teaching a composition-heavy load, takes time and
energy.  Helping parent four
children does as well.  These aren’t
complaints but matters of fact, and I am thankful to be a teacher and a mother.  So my writing process has become the
last hour in the day, and not all days, when I read a few poems in whatever book
has come through interlibrary loan. 
Sometimes I mull over a phrase or image that caught in my head earlier
in the day, maybe during my commute. 
Then I see what follows.  I
use the Notes tool on my iPhone because that way as I’m falling asleep I can
still work and not feel like I’m working. 
Then, on mornings on the weekends if I’m lucky, or after I come home
from a day at work if I’m very lucky, I have an hour when my head and the house
are quiet enough that I can take the Notes to the computer and formalize them
into a poem.  These are poems I
never thought to write.
This isn’t my ideal process, but it seems to be working for
now.  And now is all we have.

The next writer on the tour will be Christina Stoddard,
whose webpage is  Her manuscript Hive won the Brittingham Prize from the University of Wisconsin
Press and will be published soon.  Christina
reached out to me about a year ago to take part in The Next Big Thing Interview
Series, and reaching out to her now seems like a great way to catch up and see
where we’ve been and gone in the past year.  Please look for her responses next week.

Posted by Sandy Longhorn