April 12, 2016

Friday, April 27, 2012

30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets: Jeannine Atkins on Multi-tasking

It's the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month and I am thrilled to be hosting my friend and fellow Poetry Friday blogger, Jeannine Atkins.

Jeannine and I met through Poetry Friday. She is the author of many books, including the historical verse biography, Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J.Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters . (My interview with Jeannine about Borrowed Names is here.)

Jeannine has several books for children about important women in science. With her interest in science and nature, her efforts to teach girls about pioneering female scientists, and her excellence in poetry, Jeannine is an expert multi-tasker. Today, she's going to tell us how juggling tasks helps with her writing.

Here's Jeannine.

I’m not a fan of blank paper, so rarely begin there. Much of my writing is inspired by reading or paying close attention. I’m intrigued by small things I see, and pose questions, puttering through books or following threads on the computer, though WEB information often isn’t dusty or buried enough to intrigue me. I write out from the image, describing it, then the setting, and people who come upon it. I look for other concrete things that the first image calls to mind and collect those that collide or snap into place.

I find it helpful to have several projects going at once. I can embrace procrastination by goofing off on one by fiddling with another, and find that after all a poem is sneakily coming together.

Or you can always write a poem about procrastination, as I did here:

Not Today,

Mama says, There’s too much housework.
Please. Do not get sidetracked
by shirts that need pressing.
There will always be fine grime
on the china on the mantel,
corn to husk, cherries to pit, apples to core.
Ignore them. The dream begun under a tree
is sweeter than stories you tell yourself
over dirty dishes.
Life tempts most away from paper and pen,
but gently bring yourself back.
Who can resist gingerbread
with chocolate frosting,
but do you need to bake it now?         
If you must get out pots and pans,
come back and invite your distractions --
cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg -- onto the page.

 from Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J.Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters (Henry Holt, 2010), © 2010 Jeannine Atkins. All rights reserved.

Some of my family's other favorite books by Jeannine are:

We especially enjoyed Becoming Little Women
after a visit to the Alcotts' Orchard House.
You'll find links to every post in my "30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets" here.

Today's Poetry Friday host is my dear friend Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.


Amy LV said...

Oh, I do love that idea of a poem coming sneakily together...yes! (And hooray for better words to explain why I'm not writing.) And Jeannine, thank you for choosing my favorite poem from your beautiful BORROWED NAMES to share here today. a.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Happy waves from another Jeannine Atkins fan! I love that "WEB information often isn’t dusty or buried enough to intrigue me." Great post and poem, and I particularly enjoy the thought of those inviting brown spices finding their way to the page.... Thanks, Ladies!

Tabatha said...

All I can say is "YES!" I will have to save this poem to read again, so long as I don't use it to procrastinate!

Jeannine Atkins said...

Thanks for including me in this thought-provoking series!

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Not Today is one of my favorite poems from that book! I'm so glad it was shared here. I adore Jeannine's books and poems and unique way of looking at life. After reading one of her blog posts I usually find myself wanting to slow down and observe something quiet in my life.

Author Amok said...

Jeannine, it was my pleasure! Thank you for sharing the poem.