The poetry editors, Rappahannock Review: Did you decide to use climate change as your central metaphor before you began writing this piece, or did the idea come while you were writing?
Jenny McBride: Climate change was the central metaphor from the inception of the poem. I’m pretty sure I actually started with the title and continued on from there. It came from one of those “aha moments”, probably in the midst of some mundane task like making breakfast, while the rest of my brain was looking for parallels between my life and the larger world around me. I realized it was more than a coincidence, I had a poem!
RR: Your blend of simile and imagery is impressive. What creative process do you use to come up with them? Is it based on sound or on the specific image you wish to convey–or something else entirely?
JM: Most of the time I am just really focused on capturing an image, something I can almost see off in the distance. I try to fashion a compelling description of the larger whole of that image. I rely on simile a great deal to enrich my descriptions. I don’t focus too much on sound per se, but I do seek out the most vivid, flavorful words that will convey my intended meaning.
RR: In your opinion, what’s the most difficult aspect of creating a vehicle for metaphor within a poem?
JM: I think the key is having a good metaphor to work with, something strong that will resonate with readers. Sometimes I find myself working on a poem and the metaphor is just too tenuous, requires too much stretching or twisting. I think if you have a good metaphor and you don’t try to plumb it too deeply for minute details, you’re good to go. Most of my poems are fairly short and flesh out the core of a metaphor without wandering off to less solid edges.
RR: Who are you reading now?
JM: Patti Smith, Jack Kerouac, Carl Sandburg, Nadine Gordimer. Although I love fiction and poetry, I read a lot of non-fiction as well, particularly conservation and natural history titles. I take great comfort in the natural world, and learning more about it provides abundant material for metaphors! I also read many periodicals, everything from American Poets to Z Magazine. There’s always so much more to learn about the world, so I try to read widely.
RR: Tell us about your writing process. For example: Do you prefer pen to paper, using a laptop, an iPhone?
JM: Pen and paper. Occasionally I write prose using a laptop, but not poetry. Something about the creative process of sculpting a poem requires my hand wrapped around a pen and the ink trailing across the page; letters appearing on a screen seem far less intimate, almost disconnected.
After the longhand draft, the poems sit for a while, “ripening”, if you will. Years ago I would type the week’s poems every weekend. Gradually, it slipped into a monthly backlog, and at this point I am comfortable with running about a year behind. So the poems sit in my notebook for about a year before I type them into a final draft. Sometimes I’ll add a line or two or change a few words, but usually the first draft is pretty close to the final version. So sometimes the ripening period just has to do with accepting the poem as it is without fussing over it.
Climate Change my Body appears in Rappahannock Review Issue 3.3
Jenny McBride’s writing has appeared in The California Quarterly, Green Social Thought, Streetwise, Conclave and other journals. She makes her home in southeast Alaska.