Creative Writing

Things We Carry: Lisette Boer

Things We Carry is a series of short interviews with current students, faculty, and alumni of the Creative Writing Program. These conversations are interested in the tactile elements of writing: what do we hold essential? What tools do we need in order to create? The things we find essential to our writing process reflect our beliefs about craft and process.

This week, we were delighted to hear from recent graduate, poet, and social media extraordinare, Lisette Boer!

Where & when are you writing these days?

I’d love to lie. I’d love to say I wake up promptly at eight. That I reserve thirty minutes for writing every morning. That I’m meticulous and driven in my writing practice. I’ve continuously tried the 30-minute morning method with no avail—the pages always end up cryptic and paradoxical. There is something inside me that needs to propel my way through the streets of New York or feel some sort of tightening in my chest before I can truly start writing. Perhaps the feeling is best described by Sarah Kay in her poem called, “Paradox.” The opening lines begin with:

When I am inside writing,
all I can think about is how I should be outside living.

When I am outside living,
all I can do is notice all there is to write about.

Poets, we’re emotional and observant creatures. I like to feel the things I write about, so I can pretend they are true. Occasionally, I’ll find myself sitting down and writing a few pages after a walk or if I get the chance to sit down between work and the gym. Throughout the day, I’ll write in my notes app or on small scraps of paper if a line or idea blooms in my mind. But it isn’t until I return home at the end of the day that I get most of my writing done. I’ll start at around seven or eight and write until I lose my flow; sometimes, this lasts well into the night and witching hour. Most evenings, I’ll start on my loveseat tucked in the right-hand corner of my apartment. I always sit in the middle with my legs crossed because I put it together myself, and I’m not convinced of its structural integrity before I navigate into bed. Perhaps, I don’t have a strict “writing time” except to say when I’ve done an acceptable amount of living.

Do you have any tools or tokens that are essential to your writing?

Do all non-writers buy their writer-friends notebooks? Mine do. I have an immense amount of guilt about writing anything that’s not important. My mom once bought me a hand-embroidered notebook; it remains untouched to this day.

Instead of using notebooks, throughout the day, I’ll write on pieces of ripped paper, sticky notes, and napkins that I throw into my bag (I feel like a grandma who keeps used tissues in my purse admitting this, please keep my secret). Sometimes, I use my notes app, but it’s so unorganized there’s the risk of it getting lost in the void. At the end of the day, I’ll empty my bag and spread out whatever I wrote down in front of me, so I can implement it into my work or put it in my ideas spreadsheet (I’m a Virgo).

What else? I have a pouch of crystals on my desk. Typically, I choose two or three to lay out in front of me before I start depending on how my day has gone. And if it’s after 4pm then I’ll have a glass of red wine but only if it’s nearby and in solitude or good company.

Pen and paper, laptop and wifi, or a combination?

Since my thesis, I’ve been writing pages almost exclusively on my laptop, excluding short lines that come to me during the day. If I buy my own notebook, I’m more likely to write in it, and I enjoy the practice of putting pen to paper. I think it’s important to write without a screen (but the process is so slow) so I’d like to write in a notebook more this summer.

Do you have any habits or rituals that help you get grounded before you start writing?

I like to draw three tarot cards at the end of each day before I start writing. This isn’t necessarily for the writing process, still, it helps me feel grounded.

If I’m having a tough time finding inspiration for a few days, I’ll go to the movies, read a book, visit a gallery, or wander around a museum for inspiration. I’m a big believer in the exploration of art for inspiration and mentorship. One artist that inspires me is Ana Mendieta; and although she wasn’t a poet, the ideas behind her work certainly can prompt poetry.

You have been given a backpack and are being sent to a desert island for thirty days of uninterrupted writing time. What do you put in the backpack?

I’d bring tequila, sunscreen for my delicate Victorian skin, a few books, a journal, two fine ink pens, and I picture of me and my grandfather.

Are there any words or quotes that you find essential to your writing practice?

My undergraduate advisor, Susanna Childress, used to start and end each semester with Joy Harjo’s “Eagle Poem.” I’ve become quite attached to the poem since I graduated, and it’s foundational to my writing practice. In my eyes, it’s a reminder and prayer to find fulfillment in the process of life and work before reaching the end. Sometimes, I find myself wrapped up in wanting to finish a project without enjoying the creation of art. I want to be more intentional about loving what I do and being purposeful in each step.

Lisette is a results-driven social media manager with an MFA in Creative Writing specializing in poetry and fiction, along with graduate minors in Entrepreneurship and Digital Storytelling. She serves as a Poetry Editor at Milk Press Books and StatORec. A passionate smm who can leverage storytelling, her brand list includes Pen Parentis, The Poetry Society of New York, The Poetry Brothel, The New School’s Creative Writing Program, and more. Her creative work can be found on Medium, Pandemic Poems, Thought Catalog, Folio, LEVITATE, and elsewhere in the ether. Connect on her site at www.lisetteboer.com

Things We Carry is an interview series produced by Stuart Pennebaker.

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