Interviewed by Britt Trachtenberg Managing Poetry Editor at Chaotic Merge
Britt Trachtenberg: Can you describe your writing process, starting with a draft?
Renee Keele: To write poems I must be inspired, and often I go through long droughts where my muse is missing. When looking for inspiration I will read poetry, mainly from contemporary artists, or look to nature. The Arizona landscape often provides me with a starting point whether it be the sunrise, or a dust storm. From there I have learned to just write, not worry about form or any “rules” but let my fingers fly. Next, I will go back and look at what shape I want the poem crafted in. If I want a line limit, a sound, or
to follow any other poetry rule I will go back and create that flow. Lastly, I will look at every end line and make sure each line ends how I envision it.
BT: How do your writing and revision practices differ?
RK: Writing is a stream of consciousness practice, revisions are nitpicky, like surgery. Revisions are where the magic happens, every word is looked at, erased, added back, changed and flipped until the poem sings. Often it can be painful, but I honestly love revising. I enjoy the hunt of finding just the right word at the perfect line. It might take an hour to write out a poem, yet months or even years to revise it.
BT: How do prose-poetry and enjambment motifs contribute to themes within
RK: I took an online class about enjambment and fell in love with the technique. It creates this hanging in space air to the words and each line. Forces the reader to pause and linger on the line a bit more and question why the poet places those words there like that. I tend to like to tell stories with my poems and the proseish style tends to lend a helping hand with my style.
BT: In the third line of “Undone,” you use a hyphen. Some lines feature enjambment. How does the end-stop pause affect the poem?
RK: I feel grief is a stop and pause journey. It’s also a journey that really never fully ends. I wanted the reader to connect to the piece in an intimate way, to engage as if it was also their journey, all the while
knowing full well this was my journey. Many times we put our grief on hold, both unconsciously and consciously, and as I wrote I wanted that to come through with my end lines, and using short lines with hyphens and enjambment lend to that feeling.
BT: What made you want to write “Undone” and how do you think it’s evolved to the version it is?”
RK: I belong to an online poetry group on the site Scribophile, and every April we challenge each other to write a poem a day. The first version of Undone was written in 2020. I did not intend to write about my dad’s death, he passed away from a brain tumor in 2005, however by the time I finished the last line I was crying. I had not yet written about my dad and the poem evolved into a therapy session. The original form remained, but with every revision I came closer and closer to honoring my dad, and honoring my grief. It can be difficult to write a personal piece yet still keep it universal, so I do remember struggling with the final two lines. My dad’s favorite word was fuck, it was an adjective for anything and everything, I really wanted that in the poem, but also knew it would alter the tone of the piece. I received feedback that both supported it and suggested an alternative, but ultimately I felt without it, the poem would be incomplete, so I stuck with it, and am pleased I did.
Who is Renee Keele?
Renee can’t remember a time she didn’t love to write. Back to 2rd grade she won a poetry competition for a poem about Care Bears. She currently has a poem published in Neuro Logical literary magazine. She is an Arizona native, a rare breed, who lives on a small farm raising chickens and ducks with her husband of 23 years, and three children