How I write: Simone Inguanez
by Marie Benoit

My writing patterns are quite random. There are days – and nights – I am virtually immersed in infinite waters. There are days – even days on end – it just dries up. I am with child and it is suddenly still, gone before it is born. Scribbled ideas on scraps of paper, or my laptop, like seed that never made it. Time and time again, I have taken to not writing at all.

Images and verses have this habit of seducing me when my hands are tied. My classic case: at the steering wheel. Or watching a movie; at an exhibition; or reading… They have this habit of initially approaching me as a fleeting thought. Then, coming and going, till I let go and put pen to paper. (To be exact, it is preferably pencil to wide-ruled paper.)

When not a case of jotting down a verse or more at a red light / while looking out a window / lying on my stomach on a roadside beach (like I wrote versi għal għajnejk ċassi), I love to sit around and write in cafés. There is something about such places that gets me going. I find them utterly stimulating: faces without names, voices warming up – cooling down, characters of the day, passers-by, half-heard words…

A couple of years ago, I used to work in Sliema. There I had my favourite café which I would visit every morning – to sip coffee and inspiration at my usual table. Countless poems of mine were born, or at least conceived, at that very table. I had a similar ritual in Iowa, mainly at the Java House coffee shop downtown and the Java House coffee space at Prairie Lights Books. Most of those poems are yet to see the light of day.

What I write about is not necessarily – and surely not exclusively – the here and now. Nor am I effectively saying the truth / the whole truth / nothing but the truth. This is creative writing – a capricious, selective, playful recollection, recreation, weaving of elements of truth and imagination. And this is poetry – the aesthetics of images painted in words, rhythms, pauses and sounds.

My childhood revisits me from time to time with extremely vivid pictures and increasing frequency as I grow older. Among the prevailing reminescences, is the neighbourhood where I was brought up in my early childhood; my grandparents; the fields in Wied il-Qoton which brought me truly closer to nature.

Similarly, when I am away, I am haunted by all things Mediterranean and Maltese. This is reflected in 7 poets 4 days 1 book (a collaboration project with six other poets at the University of Iowa). On the Islands, I find myself carrying buskers I once walked past, beggars whose eyes my eyes have met, countries I have only read about, questions that hit me in the face.

My writing process never seems to close. I start by scribbling my first verses, reading aloud to myself. When a poem is taking shape, I consolidate it on my laptop. When happy with the offspring, I print the poem and carry it around for days, reading and rereading it,crossing out words, moving pauses…

Over the years, my idea of what makes a good poem has significantly evolved, and so have my style, influences and themes. The wild horses of my earlier poetry had to be bridled, with due diligence not to break their bold spirit. The child had to find ways to preserve itself while growing into a woman. Throughout, I am enchanted as ever by the words and sounds of the Maltese language.

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