I’ve been working for some time on Morrissey’s Japan sequence in Between Here and There for my consideration of form. It has been refreshing to spend time really getting into forms, experiences and whole language systems that are completely unfamiliar to me.
The Japan sequence interests me not only on its merits as a beguiling exploration of frustrated communication, culture shock and Otherness (I’m using it in the Lacanian sense, not the postcolonial sense), but because it marked a change for Morrissey in terms of her writing practice. I’m including here a short extract from an interview with Declan Meade published in The Stinging Fly (and available to read in full on their website).
My lack of any explanation here is because I’m still mulling, and because what I’ve brewed so far is in my thesis.
Tell us about how you write a poem.
I write very differently now from how I did up until the writing of that Japanese sequence.
Well, how was it then?
It was much more inspiration-driven. I would get first lines and I would just start writing. It would be more a matter of listening and then the poem would just flow onto the page. I’d have to go back and rework it, but the body of the poem would be written pretty quickly and the voice would be very, very clear. Since the writer’s block I’ve never had that clear voice, I don’t know if I ever will again. It just stopped. I haven’t been inspired to write since. I’ve had to develop a completely different way of writing. It’s much more like chiselling away, of something emerging, rather than having a clear direction at the beginning. There’s much more labour, more craft involved. Within that process the poem isn’t going to work, unless something, whatever it is, takes over and the poem starts to move.
So do you now sit down and force yourself to write?
I have to make time to write a poem, to clear a space. It’s quite scary facing the blank page like this, every single time, with no idea how the construction process is going to go. Then again, aspects of writing like this can be less scary than inspired writing. When the voices stopped, when I stopped being inspired, I was terrified because I’d always written under inspiration which is something I couldn’t control. I couldn’t control when it was going to happen or what it was going to tell me to do. When that was taken away, I felt I had no inner capacity to write a poem. Since then I’ve got this whole new approach in which I can create a poem through an act of my own will. The fear has diminished. I feel more in control. I’d love the voices to come back but I can’t make them.
Do you have any theories as to why they went away?
Maybe I just grew up. It was just so clearly defined, in that I got food poisoning and my thyroid function collapsed, and from that point on I couldn’t write like before. But maybe it was just about being twenty-four as well. When you’re young emotion is so pristine and intense, it can drive a poem. Maybe as you get older, emotion doesn’t have such force.