Following series editor David Dodd Lee’s lead, we asked Erica Bernheim (author of The Mimic Sea) to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. She was gracious enough to participate. You can see DDL’s initial response here.
1.) What are you working on?
I am currently working on a new manuscript, one which takes up where—I think—The Mimic Sea left off. I want to move forward somehow, both through my own ideas and limitations, but also through what I think is interesting to read about. It’s one thing to mimic, but quite another thing to be an imposter, and I want to locate and call out what that means, both as persona and through the personal, the post-confessional. I was incredibly lucky and grateful to have done a residency at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois over the summer, and I reordered the manuscript while I was there, added new material, and simply had time to read and to write, which is not often the case during the academic year.
2.) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
If my poems do differ, it may be partially due to my devotion to the low-brow, along with a hampered sense of rhythm and music. I can hear when something is there, but when it comes to scanning and spondees and dactyls, I have always struggled, especially when it comes to being deliberate about decisions. Reading a lot helps, whether it’s a P.D. James novel or Frank O’Hara, something that gets into my head and sticks there, a rhythm or a way of arranging phrases that, for me, cuts through the ornamentation and functions as a creation device. I can mimic what I hear, which makes even more determined to become the imposter in this next set of poems.
3. ) Why do you write what you do?
I always wanted to write fiction and focused more on that for the first few years of my undergraduate studies, but I am notoriously bad at writing dialogue (unless you enjoy reading the words of robots) and I lose interest in plot very quickly, so that didn’t seem like a good fit. I was greatly encouraged by Keith Tuma to continue writing what I thought were poems. During that time, I also read a great deal of Robert Creeley and William Faulkner, and felt drawn towards what could happen with words, whether used sparingly or to excess, and I felt that poetry would allow me to keep trying to find out.
4. ) How does your writing process work?
As a compulsive people-watcher, I have never been one to work well in coffeeshops or away from home. When I write, I usually have something on in the background (baseball game commentary is ideal). Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve had a desk by a window and I use a big-screened desktop computer, rather than a laptop or tablet, generally. I write a lot by hand and then type it up, but I do all the revisions onscreen. Reading is most often the catalyst for me when it comes to writing poems of my own, although I am sometimes inspired by music, fragments of conversations, fabulous things my students say, or documentary films.