The Magnolia Review: Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?
Devon Balwit: I write at home at a standing desk made from a huge stack of books by a window that looks out over the neighbor’s roof. If I’m lucky, I get to watch flickers and crows drop by.
TMR: What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?
DB: I compose and edit on my laptop. I love the immediate versatility it gives me for moving things around and changing word forms/verb tenses.
TMR: What is your routine for writing?
DB: I’m an insomniac. I often wake up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. If I can’t sleep for a couple more hours, I get up and start writing. Either way, I’m upstairs writing by 5:00 or so. I write until I leave to teach at 8:00. I write again after work from about 4:00 until 9:00. When I say “write,” I mean a mix of writing new poems, editing old ones, sending things off for publication, and trying to put together chapbook/book manuscripts.
TMR: How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?
DB: I have been a writer since I was in middle school, so for 40 years.
TMR: Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?
DB: I write for any reader who responds to what I have to say. I submit eclectically, and am happy to have published my work in feminist reviews, reviews that I think are read by younger people, those that I sense might be read by older people, “edgy, ” experimental reviews, and more traditional ones.
TMR: What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?
DB: I am never blocked as everything inspires me. I write poems inspired by images, quotations from books that I am reading, prompts, experiences I’ve had throughout the day, political events, conversations, dreams, and other poets’ poems.
TMR: What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?
DB: I play Frisbee with my goofy yellow lab, Oliver. I take two or three walks with him throughout the day. I love to read novels in both French and Spanish.
TMR: What is your favorite part of the creative process?
DB: Tapping that final period and rereading what I’ve written aloud.
TMR: What is your advice to aspiring writers?
DB: Do not be deterred by rejection. Do not feel cowed by people who do not like what or how you write. Understand that what people respond to–what journals respond to–is subjective. You must be your own best/worst critic. Listen to your own poems, interrogate them, see if they sound fresh, see if they are working hard, see if they are reaching. Experiment with new forms and styles. Don’t be content to do the same thing. Don’t be snooty about writing/publishing. And finally expect many many rejections when you submit. Be ballsy–keep submitting the same poem time after time and to place after place. Often it takes 5, 6, 7, 10 tries before it finds the right home. (Of course, revisit poems that have been rejected quite a bit…some DO need to be retired or seriously reworked…). I am so grateful to a man in my poetry group who said that he has submitted the same poem to 23 or 24 places. Initially, I would NEVER have thought to do that.
Check out Devon’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.