Monday, January 4, 2016

On Creativity: Wendy McVicker

I met Wendy McVicker in 2011 (I believe it was), when I moved back to Ohio. She came to read for Paging Columbus, and I immediately enjoyed her work and warm, playful artist's spirit. Since then, I've enjoyed following her poetry and creative projects, which often draw inspiration from other forms of art. (I especially enjoyed visiting Wendy and Becca J.R. Lachman, who is also featured here on The Storialist. Together, they run this wonderful radio show out of Athens about poetry, and were kind enough to feature me!) Her new chapbook, The Dancer's Notes, is no exception--I found it engaging, full of empathy, humor, and joy.

Here's a little exchange we had about her work (my question is bolded, and then you'll see Wendy's response). Be sure to keep reading after our mini Q and A--you'll find a poem from the book, and Wendy's bio below.

Q: The poems in your chapbook, The Dancer’s Notes, seem to be studies of movement and stillness (often within the same poem). How do you relate to these concepts as you write? Do you feel active/physical while writing? Or still?

A: Movement and stillness: the teeter-totter where I have spent my life trying to find balance. I was a bookworm growing up, but always took long walks, and played for hours and days in the woods with my brothers and other neighborhood kids. As a philosophy student in college, I took dance classes to get away from the desk and the library. After graduation, I debated grad school in English versus more dancing, and then followed love to Europe, where I had to learn to live in a new language: dance became my means of expression, while my love of language was stirred every day as I became more nimble in French.

Poetry is another way of seeking balance on this seesaw. Although in love with words — or maybe because I am in love with words — I am fascinated by and drawn to silence. My first “adult” poems bloomed in the silence of Quaker Meeting, after I had returned (with my love, and a toddler son) to America, and my mother tongue. Silence is where I find the words, and it is the setting for all the words. I think that this is why I like to have a lot of white space in my poems: the silence that surrounds the words is always present.

In much the same way, dance is born of stillness: each gesture arises from stillness, and there are no movements that are not the intended gesture. This is the goal, at least, just as the poet’s goal is to have not a single extraneous mark on the page.

I sit (or lounge) to write, in any number of places, at home and elsewhere, but I do take frequent breaks for fresh air and moving. I once lived by a long bike path, and would take lines I was working on to that path, and murmur them to the rhythm of my walking. I know writers who listen to music while they work. I can’t do this: if there’s music on, I have to get up and dance.  But then dance circles back to the poems and the poetry practice. In The Dancer’s Notes, I try to find words for this dance of the spirit — sometimes they come from stillness, sometimes from movement. It is a dance that never ends.

a poem from The Dancer's Notes

Big jump up

A fence, or stile
A river rock sunken
in the grass —

Leaping, once, as a child
she crashed
into the top rail —

pain, bright
firewheels splashing
in her skull, the vast
black sky and her mother

chiding — she
who hesitates is
— Now

she leaps and clears
the other kneeling
in light, and her heart
too lifts —
a big jump up —

her face spangled
with gold

About Wendy McVicker

Wendy McVicker is a Teaching Artist and Literature Field Consultant with the Ohio Arts Council’s Arts Learning program. She has always tried to balance writing and moving, contemplation and action. At Webster University, she studied both philosophy and dance, and her life in poetry is paralleled by her life in karate. She lived in French-speaking Switzerland for seven years, and her response to returning to her native tongue was to dive into poetry. Her poems have appeared in small journals online and in print, and in the anthology A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford (ed. Becca J.R. Lachman). In addition to offering poetry workshops and residencies in schools, galleries, libraries, community centers, prisons, and hospitals, McVicker performs with instrumentalist Emily Prince under the name another language altogether, often with dancers and other musicians. The Dancer’s Notes (Finishing Line Press, 2015) is her first chapbook.

No comments

Post a Comment

The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.