1. What inspired you to write the prose poem/microfiction which is published in Small Wonder?
I started writing prose poems a while back and really enjoy writing in that compressed form. About ten years ago, I was invited to an amazing literary festival called Vilenica in Slovenia, and it was there that I met the American poet, James Tate, who has used the prose poetry form frequently. He read in a venue which was an enormous underground cave. It was cold down there and we were offered shots of the local alcohol to warm us up. While Tate was reading bats flew over his head. It was the best writer’s festival! Hearing him read his prose poems was a bit of a big influence on me.
My poetry collection, The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and Other New Zealand Icons (Seraph Press, 2011), is about thirty prose poems that use different ‘iconic’ N.Z. subjects. (I have lived in N.Z., although I was born and grew up in Australia, with Aussie/Kiwi parents.) The ‘iconic’ prose poems have proven to be accessible poetry for people who generally never read poetry because they like the subjects: whitebait, severe weather warnings, mouthguards, luncheon sausage, motels in Taupo, the long weekend, and the cheese and onion sandwich, to name a few.
2. Tell us about that process. (Do you start sparse and widen out, or do you write down every possible association and cut back? Do you research the subject matter you are writing about? Is it pure intuition?) Take us through an example if you want.
I write poetry, fiction, and drama, so I work in several different ways. But these are things that always work for me: I like to start work early in the morning (it’s quiet), I like to have a comfortable wheelie office chair (good for your back), I need many cups of tea, and a big wad of paper on hand – I write in longhand first of all and then edit it further as I type it into my Macbook (love my Mac).
3. What advice do you have for other writers ? about the first or last line? About how to choose the title? Do you follow any rules?
Writing is like sex – the more you do it, the better it gets. I once lived next door to a drummer. He practiced every day (ouch!) and you could hear him getting better. Most things are like that, and the same rule applies to writing. (So just sit down and do it.)
4. Who or what inspires your writing?
I believe in making my own resources. One inspiration would be my powers of observation – I think that’s a good writer’s tool. For example: why does the black rubber front door mat disappear from outside my neighbour’s apartment, and then re-appear? (My conclusion: she locks it up inside if she goes away.) I loved this funny fact and thought it would be a great beginning of something much larger.
I also have an ‘ideas box’ where I chuck in any ideas for a writing project. I believe in ideas fervently – they have the potential to become tangible magic. Always write those ideas down.
5. Tell us what do you do if you haven’t written anything in a while and you want to get started writing again? Could you share your favourite writing exercise with our readers?
This doesn’t happen to me (not writing) because writing is my occupation and main source of income. I do it almost every day, and when I’m not physically doing it I am still thinking about it.
If you wanted to get writing or to get yourself ‘warmed up’ you could try an exercise I dreamt up and have used for some serious fun when teaching creative writing: When you are next at the supermarket find a receipt (not your own) and read it. Use this to help you create a character and write about a situation they are in.
Vivienne Plumb writes poetry, drama, and fiction. Her collections: ‘Nefarious: poems and parables’ (2004), ‘crumple’ (2010), and ‘The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and Other New Zealand Icons’ (chapbook/ 2011) all feature pieces of prose poetry.