Journeying through the Writing Life: An Interview with Karen Rigby, Poet and Author of Savage Machinery
Interview by Cynthia Reeser
CR: Are there one or more motivating factors that drive your writing, like language or rhythm or ideas?
KR: One of the main sources for motivation is reading the work of other poets. Reading might inspire me to look up a word I haven’t used before, or to write a poem in response to an image or line, or simply to pursue the work of other writers because something in that first book, whichever book it was, opened a door. It’s a circuitous route from one book to the next, but all of them feed into my writing on some level. Once I start writing, sound plays a role in keeping the poem moving. I don’t count beats or syllables or have a formal way of going about it. How a line should sound is largely dictated by how I think it should read in my mind. When it doesn’t sound “right,” I know the poem isn’t working.
KR: Each time I write a poem, I never know how it will end. It’s that process of discovery that keeps me going—to see how much further I can push an idea or line, to see how my writing will change over time, how that reflects where I am in my life. But curiosity is only one half of the equation—the desire to share the work with a reader is the other half.
KR: This wasn’t a conscious technique, so it intrigues me that you’ve noticed that. “Design for a Flying Machine” was originally a slightly longer poem, written about a year after 9/11. The “acre” referred to the town in Pennsylvania. The balloons referred to the makeshift memorials people leave. Later, after some reflection, that amount of specificity seemed extraneous. I didn’t want the poem to be about one event that had been written about by many others—it seemed like enough to invoke DaVinci’s sketch, and to contemplate disasters in general. That’s how, in later drafts, the poem arrived at its current form.
KR: I’d like to have completed and published my first book. That’s an ongoing project. But more importantly, I hope to be writing differently than I am now. Different subjects, different approaches, a deeper understanding. I started by writing numerous small conceits, very lyrical, metaphor-driven poems, often less than 20 lines in length. Only more recently did I branch out into something longer, and even that took a few years, so it’ll be exciting to see what kind of poems I’ll be writing in 10 years that are currently beyond my grasp.
by Karen S. Rigby
Finishing Line Press, September 2008
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