Justin Marks: Artist Statement
It Didn’t Have to Be Like This
Writing poetry, for me, is not an isolated act. I rarely, if ever, sit down at my desk to write a poem. It takes place in the world.
Mainly I jot down words and then assemble them into something more at some other time. I used to do this in little notebooks I carried with me. Now I have a phone with a notebook function, so I write things down there and email them to myself. Much more convenient.
I write on the train to and from work, in meetings at work, watching TV, walking down the street, hanging out with family and friends, etc.
Then I use the lines I like and that seem to go together, to resonate, move them around, change them some, take them out, put them back in, take them out again, then maybe put them into a different poem.
The physical act of writing, of sitting down to a blank page and filling it, is something I try to avoid. What I do is more like editing than writing. It’s mainly emailing myself, then cutting and pasting, doing some tweaking here and there, playing around with line breaks. I have to trick myself into thinking I’m not writing to be able to write. Or edit. Or whatever it is I do (or don’t do).
I want the work to be fluid, unstable. I want people to wonder what else I could have said. To wonder what I might have said in previous versions of a poem, or what I might have said had I held on to the poem longer and continued working on it. I want people to feel, in part, that this is how the work wound up. That it didn’t have to be this way.