interview with Dave Harrity, author of Making Manifest


Making Manifest, by Dave Harrity is a creative writing workbook / devotional book which I reviewed earlier this year , and one of the best books i’ve read recently–certainly a unique book as well. if you haven’t already, add it to your christmas list.

i am always interested in hearing from authors about their work, and since harrity is also a poet, i thought his perspective might be doubly interesting. he was kind enough to allow me to interview him, so….

1)    Pen, pencil, computer or typewriter?
DH: My personal preference is to use pens to journal and pencils to rewrite poems in revision. Writing by hand is important to the process of my own creation. It reminds me Im human (the physical tension of scribbling) and that Im the one in control of the arc of creation. I could get behind using a typewriter (theres enough human presence in it to keep things balanced), but not a screen until the piece is ready to head to a magazine editor, ready to begin being prepped to go into the world. Computers dictate enough of my life already and I want keep things slow, calculated, clear. Plus, I like to cross out, not delete. My general thought: computers kill creativity for the writer. They have their place in the process, but its remote to the act of creation.
2)    What are three books my readers should go out and buy right now? 
DH: Youre mean to make me choose three 😉
Here are three books of recent-ish non-fiction that have been pretty profound for me…
Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Prisig
Iron John, by Robert Bly
3)    Why poetry? 
DH: Because it resists the need to be relevant and engages every facet of literary consciousness and skill.
4)    If you could switch places with any other poet, dead or alive, who would it be? 
DH: I resist answering this question because I feel that only recently have I come into my own voiceand I’m proud that I wouldn’t trade it for that of another. But, since you’re not asking that exactly, I’d say I’d switch places with William Blake, without hesitation. To take a vacation in that guy’s imagination would be terrifying and gorgeous and spellbinding.
5)    What is your writing schedule like? Do you write every day? 
DH: Yes, I write every day. It keeps me human and sane, reflective and attentive. I almost always write in the morning when my mind and the day are fresh and the world outside my window is beginning to stir. It all seems so synchronous. Once I fill up a journal, I go back in and mine the usable material to begin compiling poems, stories, essays, etc.

6)    What is the best advice you’ve ever received about writing? 
DH: Keep a journal, write every day, and write about everything that crosses your mind without shame or fear. For your creative writing, remember that revision is the real writingthat’s where you can doll the thing up after it happens. Next after that, listen to the advice of editors who reject you. They’re a guardian of your work, not a gatekeeper of a world you cannot enter.
7)    What is the worst advice you’ve ever received about writing?  
DH: Publish a lot. I think it’s terrible advice. It’s terrible for one’s creative development, craft awareness, and aesthetic sensibility. It will keep your writing toothless, andin the digital agewill keep you focused on your metrics and popularity rather than loving, caring for, and cultivating the beauty of language in your own life.
8)    Sometimes it seems like churches don’t know what to do with their writers, poets, artists. What do you think the poet/writer/artist’s place is in the church? 
DH: The margin. It’s where we’re supposed to be. It’s where all prophets belong. And we all know that saying about prophets and hometowns… I think it’s best that believers stop trying to make arts relevant to the church and get back to the focus of actually making the best art possiblenot Christian art, just art. If my travels and workshops with churches have taught me one thing, it’s that art creates a unique form of community, and if that community is authentic and loving, people will want to add to it. They’ll bring their voices and talents and learn how to actually use them. And they’ll learn to use them for the gifts that they are and not with any other motivation other than bringing forward the God within to meet the God without.
9)    What inspired you to write Making Manifest?  
DH: I wanted to make a craft book that I would have wanted to read as a creative of faith when I first started writing. The project began as I was teaching at a seminary and I realized that all my artistic disciplines were in fact deeply spiritual disciplines as well. And that those disciplines could be of great benefit to people who wanted to enrich their own spiritual nature. Lastly, I’m a firm believer that language (and lack there of in the form of silence) is for everyoneGod’s gift to usand that it’s the key to reaching toward divinity. I didn’t see a book out there that was trying to keep that hand open and accessible, so I wrote one. My hope is that it will be one of the first in a long line of books like it (written by other authorssee a book like “Drawn In” by Troy Bronsink) and that it will not be the best one on the subject. I want the book to goad others into making better things.

10) Would you be willing to share one of your own poems (or a link to it)?  
DH: Sure… Here’s one that was published by Sawmill Magazine a while back…
QUANTA
Here is one thing I think I know:
each voice a variation of inflectionits own instinct and image.
Today, flustered movements of birds and leaves, children running in autumn.
Years ago, dianthus dusk
against the exact silver of a hospital room.
It is best to keep this near the front of me, a mode of you I want to understand.
The pinkish sleep of mother and newborn,
the intimacy of strangers.
Something like starlight
in the throat. Something like silence being realized as a friend.
Which it is more, I cant be sure.
The sun moves its circuitthe constant
going down againclipped array of long shadows, paper-doll precision.
These exchanges:
in tenuous twilight, the birds wind corkscrews, moan
to blue apogee in air, only to dive back down.
What is there that stays the same?
The boy and the girl laughing through motion, light bounding
open from their bodies.
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