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Poet and writing teacher Carl Winderl discusses his writing disciplines and the inspiration behind his work. After reading and exploring two poems from his recent book The Gospel According . . . to Mary, he describes his ministry work in Kiev, Ukraine. This is part one of two episodes, the second of which is scheduled to go live next month. Host: Josh Seligman
Some links to Carl's poetry
- 'kneeling at the Manger' (The Christian Century)
- The Gospel According . . . to Mary (Finishing Line Press, 2021)
Below are excerpts from today's Forecast about Carl's faith and work. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.
No days off
No matter where I go, I write. I write every day, no days off. I'm blessed to be able to do that...What I do, as I've been doing for the last 25, 30 years: the first fruits of my day go to my writing. There's no conflict in my writing between my faith and my art. I feel very blessed, like Michelangelo. We know him as a sculptor, and most of what infused his art was his faith. Everybody knows the David there in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. What a marvellous piece of sculpture, but it's also an impressive piece of faith at work.
For me, that's what gets me out of bed in the morning. Even when I was a faculty member, I would try to get after-chapel classes or around-lunchtime classes so that I could stay at home and spend the first three or four hours of the day working on my poetry.
My antennae are always up
What really infuses my writing is that every day in my writing, I spend time with a variety of texts. It's a process that I started in graduate school. I didn't want to sit down and read three hours of Henry James, so what I would do is I'd read fifteen minutes of Henry James and then read fifteen minutes of Ernest Hemingway, then I would pick and choose and go back and forth to keep my mind alert.
Basically, my mind is open. I always keep it open when I'm doing my writing in the morning. I have six or seven texts. This morning I woke up at 5:45, came out of bed at about 6, ate a light breakfast, and came into my writing space. I have right before me seven different texts...I always have a book of poetry...I rotate around back and forth and my antennae are always up.
So here I am immersing myself in a variety of texts in dialogue. I have paper in front of me, and when I feel like something's inspiring me, I'll make a note and I'll maybe start a poem, or I'll just keep moving on, and eventually, I'll get an idea from the reservoir that's inside of me.
I will do this until about noon. I don't have a set agenda, where I have to start three poems. Some mornings, I start three or four, and some mornings I start one. Today I've only done one so far. And then I also spend some time revising, rereading. I call them 'pep rallies'. I read stuff that I've written before to get me enthused so that I'll know, 'Oh, I did that before: I can do that again.'
I feel that if you're a writer, you're always at work. Even when I'm done writing at noon, I've got my antennae up for a film that I see or a conversation or if I'm reading something else. I don't just write from eight to four and then knock off. My subconscious kicks in when I'm sitting down with my wife and I get the thousand-yard stare in my eyes and she's like, 'Okay, I know where he's at right now', and she doesn't bother me.
Hands raised, palms up
I feel like I am totally blessed that every morning I get to figure out a way to spend time with both my devotion, doing my scripture reading, and my avocation, which is to write.
Poetry doesn't pay the postage, but you don't write poetry for the money. You write it because you can't not write it. I'm blessed because at the same time in the morning, I'm having a spiritual experience as well as an aesthetic experience...It's like standing in church with your hands raised, palms up: 'What is it you want to give to me today? I'll take it. I'm just going to be an open vessel for you here.'
Carl Winderl holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from New York University and maintains a home in San Diego, California.
Carl's other work on Foreshadow:
At Judas' funeral (Poetry, March 2021)
Josh Seligman is the editor of Foreshadow.