Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 19 October 2013

world building

at my writing residency last summer, my poetry mentor said something that i’m still thinking about. to paraphrase: she once told a novelist friend, ‘i don’t know how you can write the same work every day.’ the novelist replied, ‘i don’t know how you can reinvent the world every day.’

woah. seems obvious now but it had never occurred to me. there’s a big truth in there: a poem is a world of its own, with its own center of gravity. and being able to think actively about my work as world building is like suddenly realizing i haven’t cleaned my glasses in weeks and everything is much brighter than i could see through the grit.

a guardian excerpt of a speech that neil gaiman recently gave, about libraries and reading, has been making the rounds. as gaiman is wont to do, he says loads of lovely and smart and funny and wry things. among them, he tells a story about talking with a state official at the first science fiction & fantasy conference held in china. the official said they were encouraging sff because they needed to innovate more, because they had sent a delegation to top american companies and “asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.”

i grew up an sff lover (mostly the f). fantasy reading is escapist, no question about it, and i tend not to think of it in very serious terms. but when i take a trip into sword-and-sorcery land now, i’m looking much more closely at how world building happens. at how the words on the page can give a reader access to an imagined place. and i’m thinking that perhaps the days i spent not leaving my bed with a box of capn crunch to munch on drowning in dragonsbane unintentionally gave me tools i need to be the poet i want to be.

every time my pen hovers over a blank page, i get to imagine a brand new place to share with anyone who stumbles into my words. every poem a dragon spell. it’s an incredible challenge and responsibility. a shivery thrill.


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