Intermittent Visitors: Daniel McGinn

  Southern California poet Daniel McGinn is the author of 1000 Black Umbrellas. His work has appeared in Litnivorous, Poetry Super Highway, Radius and Beyond the Valley of the Contemporary Poets 1998. He has been a journalist for the East Whittier Review, the OC Weekly and Next Magazine, and has performed at The Bowery Poetry Club in NYC and The Fuse in Philadelphia. He has had five chapbooks included in the Laguna Poets Series.


1. What is your writing process?

Here is my process today: I write the first draft with a pen and composition book. I rarely write the first draft with line breaks. I write quickly and try not to think too much. I try not to correct myself while I am sketching out the initial draft of a poem. It is difficult for me not to cross out and correct myself while I am in this first stage but I have learned to just keep writing. I often rewrite, or correct those same sections later, but not in the draft stage. Once in a while, words or phrases that sound odd to me in the first draft become my favorite parts of a poem. I try not to worry about what a poem is doing, or where it is going; I just want to allow it to happen. I like to set the draft aside for about a week before I make changes to it. I think this waiting period helps to give me a little more objective view of the piece.
Writing on a computer is an entirely different process; when I start creating a piece it already looks like a finished product. Writing on a computer isn’t like writing on a typewriter; it will underline every misspelling and grammatical aberration in red and green. I can’t help but look, and in doing so, I interrupt the writing process. I am aware of the spatial relationship of the poem to the digital page and can’t help but write in line breaks. It is so easy to cut and paste that I edit the poem while it is in process. When I write on a computer there is no first draft. I often complete a poem in one sitting. I used to write on a computer a lot but I don’t want to do that at this time.


2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

Ralph Angel suggested I record my poems on the iPhone and listen to my speech patterns to determine where to place line breaks. That has worked well for me. I hear more than line breaks when I play back these recordings. I will often make changes to a poem based on how it sounds; sound is of critical importance in poetry.


3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your most recent book?

It took years to write. It has all of the elements of a memoir but because it’s a book of poetry I can take a lot of poetic license.


4. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?

No. I’ve always been writing something.


5. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

I think it does help me know more about what is going on inside and outside of myself but that has never been the goal of writing poetry. The goal is to concentrate, let go of myself and enter the world of the poem.


This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.

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