Thursday, April 22, 2021

Poet's Journey: Interview with Kim Hansen (Part 1)

Today we welcome poet Kim Hansen. Here's a little about Kim: Kim wasn’t sure whether to dance or work for the forestry department, so she received her MFA in dance and spends time outdoors every day. Writing, especially poems and letters, is another way she explores the relationship of humans moving in our environments. Kim is a massage therapist and Feldenkrais Practitioner and lives in Boulder, Colorado with her astronomer husband and their translator son. You can connect with Kim on Facebook here or email her at kim@KimHansen.org

In this two-part interview, Kim shares her journey into poetry writing, offers some advice, and talks about what is next for her.


What got you started on writing poetry?
I wrote poetry in school study halls when my homework was done, and I was looking for a way to spend time while also processing feelings. But that was a long time ago, and other than writing in journals though the years, or getting together with friends for free-writing sessions, I hadn’t really written much poetry until the pandemic hit.

For the past few years, I enjoyed the blog posts of a Bay Area writer named Laurie Wagner. I knew she held in-person Wild Writing classes, but living in Colorado, I didn’t think I would ever be able to participate. In mid-April 2020, she offered a free Wild Writing class online for 27 consecutive days. I signed up the moment I saw the offer. Each morning I received a 7-10 minute video where she talked a little about writing and read us a poem by a different poet, inviting us to sit back and listen with our eyes closed and then to set our timers for 15 minutes and write without stopping our pens. She gave us jump-off lines from the poems or open-ended prompts to get us moving again if we found ourselves stuck. I was immediately hooked.

Not everyone’s writing in the group takes the form of poetry with these prompts, but that seems to be how it flows for me.

I continue writing in this way every morning, whether or not I have a zoom session or video waiting for me. 

Where do you get your inspiration?
At first, my inspiration came solely from listening to the poems Laurie shared with us. Now, I also find myself recalling snippets of words or images, responding to events happening in the world (racial protests, shootings, life during a novel virus), emotional responses to books and films, and most often, the details of my daily life: what I notice when I hang up laundry or cook a meal. I come from a very physical background of dance and somatics, and I get lots of insights just from being in a moving body and playing with my awareness.


What is your process?
Whether or not I listen to a poem first, I always set my timer for 15 minutes and write on paper without a plan. I try to clear my mind until I push my timer and see what emerges, messy, nonsensical, surprising as it comes. I rarely write longer than 15 minutes in one sitting, but that time gets extended as I transfer from paper to computer, shaping as I go. Sometimes that means extending a metaphor or becoming more precise with my language, but mostly it means trimming away what doesn’t belong. The whole process of listening to a poem, free writing, and transposing it to the computer is around an hour.

I am just beginning to go back through a year’s worth of daily writing, trying to pull out the stronger pieces and begin to edit them further. I have zero experience with this, so I enlisted the help of one of my favorite contemporary poets, Alison Luterman, to help me identify my voice and to see what kinds of things clarify and empower the seeds of a piece. I cannot believe how much I benefitted from her look at ten of my poems and the hour-long conversation we had afterwards. She spoke in a way that lit my understanding of what I do well and how to make that better, and she did it with specific imagery that sticks with me.

What advice do you have for folks thinking of writing poetry?
I have recommended Laurie’s Wild Writing practice to a number of friends who equally enjoyed it, and it helped jumpstart them as well as it did for me.

If you’re not interested in that, I still suggest starting small and wild, meaning, set a timer and don’t edit as you go. Let that be a separate part of your brain that you can listen to later once you find out what you are trying to say. For me, a blank piece of paper is daunting until I set a timer and realize I can do anything for 15 minutes.

I also like to use photographs, word snippets cut from journals, tarot cards, and pieces of music as constraints, to create a puzzle to work within to help get me out of my language habits.
 


Interview by Ann Parker

8 comments :

  1. I used to think in poetry as a young woman. I don't know why I quit writing poetry. It is a muscle you have to maintain or it atrophies. One of my goals is to reconnect with poetry. I love this series of posts.

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  2. I find reading poetry is a great kick starter for whenever I have writers' block, but don't seem to the have the ability to write it myself. GREAT fun interview with Kim Hansen!

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  3. I am so bad at writing poetry, and it truly is a discipline of its own!

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  4. "Kim wasn’t sure whether to dance or work for the forestry department... " << And this - pick two different paths and that's the story of my life. LOL.

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  5. Different paths to "choose from," but then sometimes, folks find surprising ways to combine/connect them! :-)

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  6. Thanks to Blood Red Pencil for letting me talk about my writing practice. You are a welcoming group.

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  7. I am not a poet but do recognize the talent and vision it takes to write meaningful poems. The Wild Writing class sounds like an approach that would help all writers think lyrically.

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  8. I love your writing prompts and practices, Kim. I've written poetry since elementary school and still enjoy doing it from time to time. My main love is fiction writing, but poetry comes in a close second. Occasionally, a few verses end up in a fiction story. Several decades ago, I became quite incensed at the treatment of babies born to American soldiers stationed in Vietnam and the terrible treatment of those whose skin color didn't fit in with that country's population. At the time, novelist Pearl Buck was writing about the same abuse of these innocent children. After composing a poem that expressed by outrage, I sent it to her. Much to my surprise, she wrote me back and asked permission to use the poem. I gave her all rights to it. Sadly, the letter, which I treasured, got lost in a move to another area. How or if she actually used the poem I have no idea, but her request was the high spot of my poetry-writing years.

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