Barbara Daniels–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I write at home on our second floor, my feet up on the computer table. I face windows that look out onto the neighbors’ cars and nuthatches and chickadees in Virginia pines.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

Most of my writing is done at the computer, but I often start by writing in pencil in a notebook. I have notebooks in several rooms so I can write lines down as they come to me. I use orange Sharpwriter mechanical pencils.

What is your routine for writing? 

I’m usually at the computer each day for an hour or two. I stick with it until I’ve made revisions in ten of my poems. Little changes count. My goal is to keep at it.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I started writing poetry seriously in the eighties when a friend, Charles Holcombe, died of AIDS. This death helped me see that our time here is short. My husband and I both had gotten full-time jobs, so we didn’t need to do as much freelance educational writing and could turn to more soul-satisfying (though far less well-paid) writing.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for? 

My husband, David I. Daniels, is my first and best reader for each new poem. I’ve been in the same writing group, 34th Street Poets, since the early ‘90s, and I meet with other groups—Leap Street, Peter Murphy’s workshops, and a three-person group with Jerry Wild and Shari Berkowitz. I’m grateful to the friends I’ve made through poetry and rely on their help with my poems. On the other hand, as I’m writing, I don’t think about these people but try to follow the direction a poem seems to be heading in.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

When I want to look away from something, that’s when I need to look more carefully. If I’m not writing anything new for awhile, I stick with my revisions of older work, and I keep reading poetry until I feel like writing again. Over the last few months I’ve been reading a book a day, mostly slim volumes of poetry. This helps.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.? 

My husband and I enjoy cooking together, and we’re serious birders, traveling around the U.S. looking for birds. I also enjoy watching baseball and attending concerts performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. I try to get out and walk regularly. These activities—and in fact almost everything I do—find their way into my poems.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

It’s a great feeling to be able to start a new poem, but I’ve learned to enjoy revising almost as much.

What is your advice to aspiring writers? 

I suggest reading a poem a day, an idea the poet Gail Mazur gave a class I took in 2005 and that I’ve been aiming to do ever since. Writing down goals for creative work is also helpful.

Check out Barbara’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.

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