When did you first feel like a writer?
I have always identified as a writer, since I was in grade school and created my own "library," writing and illustrating books and signing up my parents and friends for library cards. Putting words on the page has felt like a natural and unavoidable means of self-expression for me for as long as I can remember. In high school, I expended a lot of energy studying classical flute. As soon as I got to college, I stopped spending time that way, and poetry began happening immediately, almost as though it had been temporarily dammed up and was finally released. Since then, I've continued to write my way through a number of different forms: poetry, nonfiction, journalism, blogs, and writing that blurs the genre boundaries.What does your muse look like?
A friend once answered this question with a beautiful poem about a tall woman who stood in the corner of her room, wearing white in the daytime and red at night. This got me wondering about the appearance of my muse. I decided that mine could not be personified, but existed wherever the world was sliding past my eyes--for example, when I'm driving or walking. Motion seems to get the juices flowing for me. I love ordinary places, the luminous presences of the landscape (rural, urban, and every other kind), and the weird corners behind houses and main streets that you see from a train.
Who is someone outside your genre who has influenced you?
I tend to go on and on about John Cage when I'm teaching, because I really identify with his notion that the world itself can be the art, and that all one really has to do is put a frame around some segment of it, to invite oneself and an audience to pay closer attention. "It is never irritating to be where you are; it is only irritating to wish you were somewhere else," he said. I believe that much of our task as writers is simply to get our minds focused on the materials at hand, and in some sense, to get out of their way.