How do you describe your art?
I write poems, which I think of alternately as bird houses and birds—structures (constructed utterances) and these entities that inhabit the world in what seems a magical way that endlessly fascinate me—and I’m blessed to have them fly into my life and then be able to share what I’ve encountered.
How long have you been making it?
An encouraging challenge from a poetry writing dorm mate prodded me to write my first poem in 1991 in freshman year in college. The first one was inspired by an owl I once knew. I’ve been writing poems ever since then.
Everyone always wants to know this: where do you get your ideas?
I find ideas for poems all around me. They start with a moment of attentiveness that rubs against something I’ve been thinking about recently or have thought about in the past and that contact sparks my imagination, so I guess I get ideas from the confluence of observations and obsessions.
How do you know you are on the right track with a new work?
When the work is going well, I’m absorbed by it; I can’t do anything but work on the poem in front of me. That feels like being on the right track, but I think it takes getting some distance from my writing to get a truer sense of the work.
What do you do to encourage your own creativity?
I read other poets and writers and take walks and knit and go birding and muse and that fills me with ideas, images, and turns of phrase that tickle the edge of my imagination—poem starts—but I think the creativity really follows the act of creating—problem solving, building birdhouses, writing.
What is your artistic motto? Or what do you tell yourself when the going gets tough?
Pay attention and be ready to work; the poem happens on the page one word at a time. Remember that the work requires discipline, or as some of my friends say, “Ass in chair.”
Give us one final word to describe what you hope people get from your work:
Sean Hill is the author of Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (UGA Press, 2008). His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Poetry, Tin House, and numerous other journals and anthologies. His second collection of poetry, Dangerous Goods, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2014. More information can be found at www.seanhillpoetry.com/.