Tiny Talks with William Clark

Tiny Talks is an interview series with Tiny Spoon’s talented contributors. This week we spoke with William Clark from our tenth issue.

Tiny Spoon: What kindles your creativity?

William Clark: There are artists or writers I tend to turn to for sparking ideas. Perhaps the most essential three poets for me are Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, and A.R. Ammons. Specific books of theirs I routinely dip into are Dickinson’s fascicles, Stevens’s The Auroras of Autumn, and Ammons’s Sphere: The Form of a Motion. I also keep a record of images I see in dreams. It’s not a dream journal per se, but just a sentence or two about a single specific image I might have glimpsed. Most times when I practice more routinely, the effect is to expand that particular generative part of my imagination (and sometimes making dreams more vivid). Because I often get flashes of ideas from little things I see or experience in dreams, this can be very productive at times.

Tiny Spoon: Are there any artists/ heroines/ idols/ friends that you look up to?

William Clark: The most influential artist in my life is John Coltrane. For many years I was a practicing jazz musician before writing took over my creative output. I was lucky to encounter Coltrane’s work at a very young and impressionable age. I’m not entirely sure why, but even as a teenager there was something about his music that I felt was speaking directly to me. I very quickly gravitated to the rich complexities of his most experimental work. In my eyes, there is no other figure that better represents the true consummate artist. If you examine only the last decade of his life, 1957 to 1967, the artist you hear at the end is barely recognizable from the one at the beginning. That is to say, I can’t think of any other artist (of any other medium) who innovated as much as he did. His last recordings are some of the most transcendent music ever created.

Tiny Spoon: Are there any natural entities that move your work?

William Clark: This question reminds me of how we’re all riding on the shoulders of previous generations of writers, even if we’re not even conscious of it.

Tiny Spoon: We love insight into the creative process. Could you share what it is like for you, either with your work that appears in Tiny Spoon or in general?

William Clark: I know that I’m in the groove when I get so deep into a project that I simply feel like a conduit for ideas, or that the words are writing themselves. It’s a blissful feeling, one that if you ever experience you want to return to again and again. My biggest struggle with the creative process has to do with making my conscious brain more receptive to when the subconscious surfaces an idea. It can be quite hushed and invisible. And then when I do recognize a surfaced idea, the challenge becomes developing the discipline to run with it, to not delay it.

When it comes to writing poetry, I like to think of the words and phrases and images I use as brushstrokes. That’s one of the reasons why I use irregular spacings and line breaks. In my mind I’m word-painting with different textures and variations of lines, curves, and slants. I try to avoid any set pattern and instead let my instinct inform me of how to shape something. I’m also always conscious of the opposing forces of chaos and order in my work. For example, I use sound and rhythm in my poems––not end rhymes per se, but sonically linked words––as something that helps ground the chaos of the metaphors or lack of punctuation or syntactical irregularity. With regards to the two poems appearing in Tiny Spoon 10, I wrote both of them late at night on my smartphone. I developed this habit after my son was born about six years ago, when the only time I had to contemplate poetry was late at night after everyone went to sleep and the house was finally totally quiet. It helps to keep my poems more concise and deliberate, and less purely improvisatory and wild. Both poems are at least in some small part related to trauma and how the mind adapts to it. It’s a topic I’m fascinated by, not only on a personal level, but also a societal level.

Tiny Spoon: Do you have any current or future projects that you are working on that you would like to share?

William Clark: I’m in the process for finding an agent for two novels I have written. I also have a poetry collection I’d like to publish, one that I’ve been tinkering with for the past few years.

Tiny Spoon: What book, artwork, music, etc., would you recommend to others?

William Clark: Find a list of John Coltrane’s Impulse! records, which roughly represent the last 5-6 years of his life. Start from the beginning, don’t rush it. Steadily work your way to the end. If an album seems too harsh, go back to the one before and sit with it a while longer. But it’s important to keep trying. His last few albums are otherworldly and utterly transcendent, but you can’t just jump to the end and expect to get anything from it. You have to work your way up.

With respect to books, I never really know how to answer this question. There’s rarely a single book by an author that has an outsized influence on me. Instead, it’s more of an artist’s entire oeuvre that shapes me. In other words, I find when I really invest in spending a great amount of time and effort to inhabit the worlds of others, the influence comes from total immersion and not necessarily from a single piece.

That said, for some reason Virginia Woolf’s book, The Waves, just popped into my head. What an incredible book, but also incredibly weird and inimitable. There’s simply nothing else like it. Also, something else that just popped into my head is James Merrill’s The Changing Light at Sandover, another book that is both totally fascinating and utterly strange.

Tiny Spoon: Where can people learn more about what you do?

William Clark: Two online journals you can find my poetry are Clade Song 3 and smoking glue gun, volume 4.