Amelia Martens is our Poetry of Courage judge. She is the recipient of a 2019 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council; her work has also been supported by a Sustainable Arts Foundation fellowship to Rivendell Writers’ Colony and by the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She is the co-creator of the Rivertown Reading Series and Exit 7: A Journal of Literature and Art.
Here’s how she deals when creativity runs dry:
In those times where I am struggling with my own writing, I turn to other writers and I read, read, read. Sometimes this means I’m returning to poets I love and sometimes it means reading outside of poetry: creative non-fiction, sci-fi, or a short story collection. Reading reminds me that someone wrote all of these beautiful important books, and likely those writers also felt themselves running dry at different points. And yet, here in my hands are their books! I also carry a little Nancy Drew sized notebook and I make a conscious effort to note anything I hear or that comes through my brain that could be a poem start or seed. I listen the NPR in my car instead of replaying my favorite CD; the news provides plenty of disaster and wonder—people are so strange and we engage in surreal experience every day. That helps me. I also go outside; I garden (and am amazed every time I dig a hole in the earth, that I am on a planet spinning through space and digging a hole!), I play with my daughters (who are excellent sources for poems), I cook. Mostly, I try to do things that involve creativity, but in a different sort of way. I try to turn all of my senses up, to heighten my awareness to the world, because I know the poems are out there—all around me, and this lull in my writing will pass as it has before.
She shares the following poem, originally published by Hunger Mountain in their Silence + Power issue (in 2018):
Morning Walk: September 11, 2018
Because you are five, I say airplanes crashed
and you say where is our flag and I say look
at those roses, breaking open—little mouths
on our walk to school. You scuff and work
out the equation: if airplanes crashed
on a surface like this—you drag the concrete,
then there would be fire. Yes, and now
I walk through a curtain of printer paper
a flock of fallen paper people, arms spread.
Yes, I say—there was fire and I mean is.