What is your most recent writing project or what is a piece you’ve had published recently?
My most recent book was published by Glass Lyre Press in September 2017: Before the Drought.
What’s your favorite thing someone else has said about your writing?
It’s been a very good year for wonderful things said. I’m grateful for all of these comments.
Before the Drought is a lyric meditation on corporeal existence, suffused with atavistic spirit and set in historical as well as cosmic time , a work of radical suffering and human indifference but also sensual transport. The tutelary spirits of these poems are the feminine principle, and a flock of messengers that include blue heron, ibis, phoenix, egret, and blood’s hummingbird. In the surround we find ourselves in the magical world of a floating balcony, and a field of cellos, but it is a world in peril, now and in the time to come, on the night of the Paris massacres and in a poisoned future . In the City of Light, Berdeshevsky writes poems commensurate with her vision, poems that know to ask How close is death, how near is God? Hers is a book to read at the precipice on which we stand. — Carolyn Forché
What is one craft or writing book you love?
I love to recommend this one: Writing For Your Life by Deena Metzger.
Who is one other writer you’re excited about right now?
Quintan Ana Wikswo. I’ve just recently discovered her. Her writing and photography are brilliant. We have recently interviewed one another [at Full Stop].
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What’s the best?
Worst: An editor who had signed a contract with me for a poetic novel then said I should cut the book by 50% and remove all of the philosophoical and meditative sections.
Result: I broke the contract.
Best: A poet (Faye Kicknowsway) once inscribed her book to me with these words: “The words sing all the time. Break open their disguises.” I’ve treasured that advice ever since.
Do you have a dedicated work space? Do you write in your home or do you prefer to write elsewhere? Can you write while traveling?
I have a very small and often overloaded desk that looks out a window into a cobblestone courtyard in Paris. In summer the courtyard walls are covered in climbing ivy and visiting blackbirds. In autumn the leaves turn into flaming tiny hands. `In winter, the vines are dry and picked clean with the deaths of the season. Each season whispers to me differently. I also love to write on long train trips, the landscape spinning by. I am a traveler, always have been. I also love to read in the upper room at Shakespeare and Company in Paris. I’ve done more than a few book launches and readings in that same book-lined room. (And course, I do like to write in cafés. Very Parisian!)
What are some of your writing habits?
I’m really not a creature of habit, but I do aim to write every day. At least in my spirit. It may be by candlelight with my first coffee (Light comes late in winter time where I live, and the candle helps me to believe in the light.) But it may also come while I am walking and stop to fill a notebook page.
I also am rather dyslexic, so often my work begins with lines that I think are the start. . .and realize eventually that they are to be the ending. For me it’s a matter of trusting process rather than habit. And also, being willing to begin again and again and again, and not to be frightened of the silent times, the empty times, because there are such times for me. But I trust that the words can and do return. Also, I have two creative modes; I’m also a photographer. So times when words desert me, I open my eyes to images and allow them—to speak to me, and for for me.
When you are sitting down to write, what is the first thing you do?
I need to get silent. I try sometimes to listen for my own heartbeat.
When in your life have you felt your work/life balance to be most in sync? When in your life have you felt the most out of sync?
I used to tell myself that I could write best when I was happy, whatever that means. (Happy.) But I know that to be an illusion. Both the notion that I write best when I’m at peace and content, and the notion that I can possibly control when such a time is, or will come. The truth is that much of my best work has come out of my inner sense of being lost, or too alone, or feeling that I had to speak out or choke, or when the need and hope of being a voice in my time makes any other thought seem selfish, and I just allow. Also, as I have matured as a human, I deceive myself less as to what I need to write—and I just do the work.
What are the most pressing demands for your time, energy, labor (including emotional labor)? What has worked best for you in terms of balancing those demands with writing?
When a book is published, I feel overwhelmed by the demands to do the dog and pony show for it, and the need to work for “it.” To get the word out for it. To help with publicizing it. To query. Too often, to plead for notice for the book. Something I don’t enjoy, to be honest, but the reality of publishing is that the poet must collaborate with her press in this, or the book will not reach the readers she and it most desire. Because once published, the book is a living thing and I feel I owe it my best shots. When I am in this mode, I find it nearly impossible to write new works. I surrender to this, but the emotional price is huge.
What are the ideal conditions for your creativity?
A small whisper somewhere inside that says “trust yourself. . .it will come.” And then, patience. Enormous patience and a humility that comes from having written well, sometimes, and having written pages that only deserve to be burned. . .but knowing that I have found my way in the dark before, and I will again. I don’t know where such faith comes from. But I have known it, and known it to disappear, and known it to return. So I must call it a faith in my own faith.
Do you have any writing rituals? Or any non-writing rituals that feed your writing life?
A very old friend, the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon used to speak of the need for a writer to spend “window time.” I understood that he meant allowing oneself to stare into space, to stare out the windows. For me, sometimes I stare into the dawn—and wait for the light. And sometimes I need to sit very quietly in the dark. And allow. And wait.
What self-care practices do you have and what, if any, routines do you have surrounding them? How does self-care relate to your writing life?
Long showers. Making good coffee. Long walks. Forests. Making love.
Margo Berdeshevsky, born in New York city, often writes and lives in Paris. Before The Drought, her newest collection, is from Glass Lyre Press, September 2017. (In an early version, it was finalist for the National Poetry Series.) Berdeshevsky is author as well of Between Soul & Stone, and But a Passage in Wilderness, (Sheep Meadow Press.) Her book of illustrated stories, Beautiful Soon Enough, received the first Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for Fiction Collective Two (University of Alabama Press.) Other honors include the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America, a portfolio of her poems in the Aeolian Harp Anthology #1 (Glass Lyre Press,) the & Now Anthology of the Best of Innovative Writing
For more info: http://margoberdeshevsky.com