Last week Jennifer Loring shared an unfinished piece of fiction and talked to Girl Meets Monster about what gets in the way of finishing writing projects. This week I’m joined by B. E. Burkhead. I met this horror-inspired poet a few years ago in Philadelphia while touring the Eastern State Penitentiary as part of a fun-filled weekend hosted by Raw Dog Screaming Press.
B. E. Burkhead was born dead to a barren woman. He is a poet, author and artist. His collection of poetry The Underside of The Rainbow is available from Raw Dog Screaming Press. He lives on the vestigial tail of Maryland with his wife, son and army of cats.
Girl Meets Monster: When did you start writing poetry?
BEB: Memory is a funny thing, but I’ve found evidence of this. The first poem I ever wrote was about “the night.” I wrote it when I was seven.
Girl Meets Monster: Where does your inspiration come from?
BEB: I think about things and play ideas against each other. I mishear or misremember things. I take an idea and write it out, and gather every thought I have on the subject onto the page. I look at other poems and song lyrics and attempt to emulate what I like about that writer. I free write random words and phrases on a page and then mash them together in new ways. I draw a lot from my past, or stories people have told me. Everything is poetry. If you can find the right words.
Girl Meets Monster: What stops you from finishing a poem or piece of short fiction?
BEB: With poetry I’m good at never completely abandoning an idea, I have work books that I write my poetry in and I steal from myself constantly. What I consider my best poem, the underside of the rainbow, has a full stanza in it stolen from a terrible piece I’d written months before. Everything in those books stays in play even if my desire to express that thought in that way dies. I go by gut and ear. If it doesn’t feel or sound right I may set a poem down. But I may reread it much later and find something usable there. The original piece gets abandoned when the spark isn’t there. When I read it as a whole and have no desire to express those thoughts or feelings.
With fiction it tends to be laziness on my part. I will usually hit a point where either I don’t know what happens next, or I can’t think of a reasonable way to connect what is happening to what happens next. And I stop writing in the moment. If I don’t make myself go back to it again and again until I have an answer it will just get forgotten. My first attempt at a novel I learned I have a nasty habit of trying to edit if I reread more than a few sentences of what I did before. If that happens evidence suggests it will never get done. I’ve made that mistake a few times. Short fiction is better for this. If I can manage to get done, it can sit forever in a not edited enough for me to be happy state. But if I start trying to fix it before it has an ending I’ll just have too many other ideas bubbling up. Or too many other things outside of creative endeavors to do. You have to allow for life to interfere in you writing. And allow for your juices to refill. Never set your goals so tight that a small real life emergency ruins everything. Or that you have no down time.
Poetry Fragments, by B. E. Burkhead
- “It is to our credit that, being mortal we endeavor more than even gods would dare to dream…”
- “Life and death are such things
Paper moons and cardboard kings
Foolish sayings lost to time
A madman’s words robed in rhyme”
- “Saint Peter didn’t know the son of man
Until his cock had crowed three times
Within that Babylonian whore”
- “She is smitten with the memory of a bridal negligee,
Of a virginity surrendered to love…”
- “I’ve always done my best but failed at being a man
Cowering in shadows and sitting where I should stand
So call me down to judgment
My name’s not on your list
And know me as a coward
By the stutters on my wrist.”
- “Lick you, rip you,
Tear you all apart
I’m an iconoclast
And you’re a work of art.”
Join me here next week when cozy mystery writer, VM Burns shares an unfinished mystery and some insights on why certain writing projects are abandoned. Looking for a place to brag about your writing accomplishments and share some of your own unfinished work? Comment below or send your writing fragments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!