Thursday, July 17, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Poet Kait Burrier

Poet Kait Burrier
Kait Burrier writes poetry, drama, journalism, and to-do lists. Her work has been thrown from balconies, spat from rooftops, hidden in mesas, performed in the U.S. and abroad, and published online and in print, most recently in SwanDive Publishing Company’s Everyday Escape Poems. See what she’s up to at


Laura Davis: Beverage of choice? 

Kait Burrier: a.m.: black coffee; p.m.: bourbon, rocks.

LD: Let’s talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Cafe rumblings? White noise? Utter silence? 

KB: I hopped a bus to New York City the day after completing my MFA, and I love the soundscape here! I find sound and physicality to be symbiotic in poetry, and it’s easy to translate the buzz of my surroundings into the rhythm of my work, especially somewhere public, like a café, a bar, a park bench, or the train. My revision process demands less chaos and more focus. Most of my creative projects have corresponding playlists that I listen to at home. I've also taken to recording myself on Garage Band while developing a cadence. It’s a good exercise for exploring a new voice, too; I’ll record myself reading a single text while listening to different songs through headphones and the delivery always varies. Occasionally, though, I do like to work at the twilight hours of morning, when even the Internet and the alley cats are still.

LD: What is your favorite exercise that gets the words flowing? 

KB: Unearthing a fresh narrative in an existing text through erasure, found word, and cut up poetry stimulates me into generating new work. Sometimes, I’ll explore a topic that has a lot of room for investigation, like astrophysics or the arctic, and allow my imagination to fill in the blanks with free association. I’m also partial to Dadaist and Surrealist games, and have been known to begin rounds of Exquisite Corpse on bar napkins.

LD: What’s the strangest object you've ever used to write a poem with and/or upon? 

KB: Oh, I’m sure it’s gotten weird before. I’ll use napkins, apps, legal pads, note cards, sidewalk chalk, whatever. Let’s see. Memorably, I was assigned to write out a map poem in a workshop during Naropa’s Summer Writing Program. I went to campus early to buy a Moleskine at the bookstore only to find there wasn't a campus bookstore. There was, however, plenty of sycamore bark shed on the sidewalks. I found a sturdy, clean piece and, using colored sharpies, inscribed a short, cartographic love poem. It survived a week in Colorado and a drive to Wyoming, but I don’t know what happened to it. I like to imagine it as a little poetry boat floating the Platte, or riding a breeze back to the Flatirons.

LD: How do you decide that you are finished working on a poem? 

I could revise forever and ever. My poems are basically complete once they've been accepted for publication. That’s not to say that I only find my poetry valid upon publication, but that I tend to step away from, revisit, and edit my work endlessly until someone else insists it’s finished. Time lends perspective. Old poems have served me well as a prompt, as a sort of creative artifact that I either want to explore for inspiration or to polish up—cut this stanza, change that line break. Sometimes, I wonder if I’ll ever truly finish a

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