This time we head overseas to Vancouver and enter the dreamy morning world of Jacqueline Turner.
Waking with the Dictionary – One Poet’s Morning
I should start with a disclaimer to say that I do not have a consistent morning ritual. I am not one of those people who gets up at 5 a.m. and writes for a couple of hours before work, like my poet friend Shane Rhodes. In fact, as soon as I develop some kind of pattern, my contrary nature suggests breaking it. Still, I think it’s interesting to contemplate how we start our days immersing our minds in language and kicking off the writing process, so here’s what I did this morning in my studio perched in the fog in English Bay (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada).
Coffee is necessary. In this, at least, I am consistent. My latest morning strategy is to start off making a list of words. I am not thinking yet, barely awake in fact. I just list whatever words come to mind, listening for the next one and writing it down. So fun. Really. No pressure to create a brilliant post-lyric or avant-lyric, I just have to make a list of words.
What I do next is based on an idea I got from reading Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary.
With the list beside me, I sit at my laptop, careful not to spill coffee on it, and write. Every time I stop or get stuck, I use one of the words. Clearly, they are on my mind in some way, so they must fit somehow. Here is the result this morning with italics indicating words taken from the list:
obstinately walk the sea edge black rock to rock
hey looking good today says the
bundled up man on the bench
capable of an excess of observation
i refrain, feel the flood of affect
flow through my chest like blood or rain
wonder if i was a scientist would i see
bodies cell by cell inside out would
a chest be a ribbonated box for a muscle
called politely the heart?
culpable in what i continuously cannot
see sear an obtuse hand tugging on my black jacket
i just need money for food he says
or the coldest day when a woman in sleeping bag
burns to death by the candle keeping her warm
3 a.m. in front of the seven eleven here in
this contentious bay where anger doesn’t
It kind of works. I might even do it again tomorrow.
Jacqueline Turner is the author of three collections Into the Fold, Careful and Seven Into Even. She lives in Vancouver, B.C. Her work has appeared in absinthe, West Coast Line, Rampike, qwerty, Tessera, and Fireweed. She has also published a number of chapbooks. She founded a literary magazine called Filling Station that has been publishing international writing for the last 10 years. In 2005, Turner was Queensland’s inaugural poet-in-residence at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane, Australia. Jacqueline teaches creative and critical writing at Simon Fraser University and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver.
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