In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Melanie Richards
1. Tell us about your poem in Volume 20. How did it come to be?
My poem “Late August, Uncomplicated by Desire” came about through a process of avoidance, meaning I was supposed to be cleaning my back bedroom, but instead I sat down in the rocking chair and hand-wrote the first draft of the poem. My house did not have air conditioning and it was pretty stifling, and this is how the month of August came into the title. The process of revision mostly involved compressing the poem and the final edit was done after Water~Stone’s editors suggested cutting the last line, which I thought really worked well.
2. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?
My grandmother used to read fairy tales to me at night and I think that started my love of reading and writing. The first time I wrote a poem was in sixth grade, in response to an assignment, and the strange tingly feeling I got while writing it made a big impression on me. The first poem was about the Nile River and I can still recite it by heart (but please don’t ask).
3. How has writing shaped your life?
Writing has shaped my life because it has been a passion and fascination that is separate from how I earn my living and, as such, it is strictly up to me to find time to devote to my writing and to the process of actually sending my work out into the world. I think it develops character because it requires insight, humility, bravery, and dedication. Since I am not very organized, it has also impacted my life because I tend to have papers, notebooks and flash drives everywhere.
4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work?
One of my favorite books is The English Patient and I am always inspired by Michael Ondaatje’s ravishing prose and the way he seemsable to seemingly collage a book into being. I also love Jose Saramago, J. M. Coetzee, Jeanette Winterson, Yehuda Amichai, Pablo Neruda, Jane Hirshfield, Linda Gregg and so many other writers.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
I am working on a fantasy/magic realism novel about a young girl and her search for her father, and a book-length memoir.