Julianna Baggott

A QuickMuse Q & A

After the agon was over, we had a few questions for Julianna Baggott. She was kind enough to improvise a few answers. Read on to learn about the subliminal line, how her thoughts connect like elephants, and how Robert Pinsky is, or was, her metaphoric Daddy.

QuickMuse: Can you describe what it felt like to improvise online? Was it difficult or thrilling (or both) to have total strangers -- lots of them -- watch over your shoulder as you typed?

Julianna Baggott: I realized watching Moss and Muldoon's replays that this was a new medium for the poem in a few specific ways. If you could watch their poems unfold, quickly, then you would be fed a poem in a way that the page has never allowed. In fact, I envision all kinds of innovations coming from this.

But, for now, two things:

  1. It allows for the subliminal line. Poetry often relies on repetition -- a soft echo. This way of reading lets the poet have a truer echo, one that lifts off of the page.
  2. It allows for interaction with the audience. And because of the intimacy with the audience it could give rise to higher emotion and humanity (and a real opportunity for humor).

I did a bit with the subliminal line. I knew shortly after reading the quote that I wanted to zap and, before I'd started, I'd wanted to write something to the audience specifically.

You'll see me write "I want to write..." and "I desire to write..." That was proof of my inkling that the audience was there -- though in truth they disappeared when I started writing.

The clock was ever-present. I realized that what I really wanted to write wasn't of the 'Hi, mom' variety; it was a Plath poem, Pinsky as my Daddy. If I'd had more time, I'd have been more playful.

QM: Did QuickMuse teach you anything you didn't know about your compositional habits?

JB: I learned that seconds move very quickly. And that I don't write in stanzas -- though I do work more with them in the first brush of composition than I did during QuickMuse. For some reason, the breaks befuddled me, literally the way the return worked, early on so I abandoned them.

QM: Looking at your finished poem now, are there any revisions you'd like to make? Any chance we'll see a revision in print somewhere?

JB: Of course. Someone wrote in to get rid of "taught," which I added last minute. So right. And there are lots of other things, too many to catalogue. Because I'm a fiction writer -- and hip-deep in a novel at present -- one would think I'd be more prose-y, naturally, right out of the starting gate. But because I have an outlet for storytelling and the slower scene, I don't want to do it in poetry. I come to poetry so ready to rid myself of the burdens of fiction -- overjoyed to have this place that allows for explosiveness. (But I am narrative. My thoughts connect like circus elephants. I've tried to be less so, from time to time, in poetry. But I'm wired that way, and my poems that fight it are incredibly lousy. Perhaps speed helps me take more leaps?)

QM: Do you have any ideas about how we can improve the process?

JB: Not really. I think the time limit is perfect. I didn't need it all literally to compose, but mentally I needed it so as not to feel terribly crushed by time.

I think that you should start up the fiction writers' equivalent. A short-short of some sort, an opening scene? Something like that.

QM: Would you be interested in writing some more on-the-fly verse for QuickMuse?

JB: Absolutely. But mainly I'll be interested to see how the game evolves, and how this new technology makes its way into other ways of approaching poetry and other genres as well.

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