Spurring disorientation

Jenny Xie is one of my favorite modern poets. She strings together words in a way that can almost feel frustrating, that somehow she’s using the same language that I use, yet able to command so much more from it, with rhythm, grace, and force. Like using the same knife as a three Michelin star chef but producing, well, what I produce. Both of her books, The Rupture Tense and Eye Level, are excellent and recommended. Quite a few of her poems are online too.

It’s easy to think this sort of talent is strictly natural; undoubtedly much of it is. But there’s method here as well. She did a great interview with BOMB magazine, with a particular part I come back to often when I’m creatively stuck:

I find that when I sit down to compose, my mind needs ample time to loosen and to unlatch from more linear, familiar lines of thinking. One way to get myself to a more wild, elastic mental space is to read before I compose. It’s always not “reading” in the sense of plowing through a book, or surrendering to the absorption of narrative; it’s more like dipping in and out of different texts, as a way to spur disorientation. I get bored when I draw close to something I’ve written or created recently, so infecting myself with other lines (or films, music, artwork) is a way of working toward self-forgetfulness. I don’t necessarily fear other voices, because my own “voice,” if I have one, is constructed and reinforced from a lifetime of reading and listening. I’m most energized when I don’t quite sound like myself, because that’s when I get curious about what or whom I’m inhabiting, and what can be wielded with a different voice or mode of speaking.

Tue, Oct 31, 2023