Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Poet Stacy Nigliazzo

Poet Stacy R. Nigliazzo
Stacy R. Nigliazzo is an ER nurse. Her debut poetry collection, Scissored Moon, was released by Press 53 last fall, and has been named a finalist for the 2013 Julie Suk Prize (Jacar Press) and the 2014 Texas Institute of Letters First Book Award.
Laura Davis: How do you begin writing? Do you just dive in? Warm-up exercise? Daydreaming? Any rituals that involve smelling a drawer of fruit?

Stacy R. Nigliazzo: I generally need some spark of inspiration, otherwise I just sit and stare at a blank page for hours. That spark can originate from anywhere, really. I’ll have a dream, hear an unexpected word (like yaw or polystyrene, for example), or see something intriguing. Then I’ll grab my journal, tie my hair back, and scribble my thoughts. After I've polished my ideas I move to my MacBook. I anguish over every little word until I’m satisfied with the finished product. If I get stuck I generally read Charles Simic—no shortage of inspiration there. Sometimes I burn candles that smell of toasted coconut and hazelnut. The best thing about that is the ribbon of smoke that appears when you blow them out. Very poetic.
LD: What writing implement do you wield and why?

SN: I always start with a mechanical pencil so I can erase when I need to and don’t have to stop for sharpening. My favorite is the Zebra #2 (because it looks like a real pencil).
LD: How do you decide that you are finished working on a story, essay, or poem?

SN: I memorize all of my poems while I’m writing them, then mull them over and over in my mind after composition. If I still like the poem after a few days I generally stick with it. Sometimes I’ll agonizingly get stuck on a line, or even on a single word. In that case, I’ll try to put the poem aside for a while to tackle again later. Sometimes it takes forever to find the right fit.
For example, in the poem "Purgatory," it took me two weeks to come up with stranded soul. I think it was complicated by the fact that I had a deadline, and it was my first big publishing opportunity with the American Journal of Nursing. It finally came to me after much sleeplessness and gnashing of teeth while I was desperately scouring my old high school thesaurus, which is silly, as the metaphor seems so intuitive now. I completed the poem with a week to spare, but went ahead and sent it in anyway. I knew I was finished.
LD: Let’s talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Cafe rumblings? White noise? Utter silence?
SN: Yo Yo Ma’s music is a staple when I’m writing (especially his unaccompanied Bach Cello Suites). I also love Emanuel Ax’s piano quartets (Mozart). Whatever I listen to has to be instrumental—no words other than mine allowed. If I’m particularly focused, or at the point where I’m breaking out the old high school thesaurus again, I’ll go for dead silence.

LD: What do you like to read before you write? Or after? Or during?

SN: Charles Simic, of course, and also Neruda’s prose poems. Most recently, Elana Bell’s Eyes, Stones and Carl Adamshick’s Curses and Wishes (both past recipients of the Walt Whitman Award). And, of course, there’s my big stack of back issues of the Bellevue Literary Review. There is absolute perfection in those pages! 

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