I don’t believe in drafting and re-drafting: An online interview with A.J. Huffman

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida.  She has previously published four collections of poetry: The Difference Between Shadows and Stars, Carrying Yesterday, Cognitive Distortion, and . . . And Other Such Nonsense.  She has also published her work in national and international literary journals such as Avon Literary Intelligencer, Writer’s Gazette, and The Penwood Review.

Dupur Mitra: Do you think poetry play role in your society? If yes how and if not why?
A.J. Huffman: Yes. I think poetry has always played a major role in society. Throughout history, we were the documentarians. I don’t think that has changed. I think the job-description of a poet (if there were such a thing) would read: voyeur, tattle-tale, instigator. Out job is to observe everything around us and then make it relatable to the less observant. Of course, we do it in a far more eloquent way than say the journalists. That doesn’t mean we are less impactful or irrelevant just because we don’t get the coveted front-page slots. And I’m not just referring to political or current-event poetry. All poetry is relaying reality in heightened form. What’s more important than that?

Dupur Mitra: Who are your major influences as a poet?
A.J. Huffman: Oh my, that’s a tough one. Obviously, as I am a female poet, the ground-breaking women of the past: Dickenson, Plath, Sexton. Learned a lot about rule breaking from Ginsberg and Bukowski, for sure. I’d also say my personal influences sometimes come from outside of poetry as well. Poe and his demented love of all things dark has always inspired me. Also, contemporary fiction and some of the more current writer’s ability to create entire worlds that breach generations. J.K. Rowling has done that better than anyone, not to mention almost single-handedly making it “cool” for children to read again in this all-digital-all-the-time world.

Dupur Mitra: What is poetry?
A.J. Huffman: Poetry is life. Pure and simple. I cannot imagine making it through a day without poetry, be it writing, reading, jotting down new ideas. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. I write everyday. Period. No matter what. I honestly believe I would shrivel up and die if I didn’t.

Dupur Mitra: what are your observations about trending of world poetry?
A.J. Huffman: Lately I have noticed the rapidly increasing acceptability of “experimental” poetry, which I LOVE. It never fails to amaze me what the mind can create. Some of the up-and-coming talents are fascinating in their experimentations. I’m specifically enthralled with a gentleman named Heller Levinson and his exceptionally creative and inspiring Hinge Theory. It is one of the more noteworthy developments in contemporary/experimental poetry, in my opinion.

Dupur Mitra: Is poetry movement can improve the poetry? if yes how, if not why?
A.J. Huffman: Yes, I believe any “movement” or advancement in poetry can always improve poetry. Nothing sedentary can survive. Poetry is like any other living, breathing thing. Adaptation is key not only to survival, but to successful flourishing. Nothing is ever perfect. There is always room for improvement. Advancement, change, these are the things that bring those improvements.

Dupur Mitra: Why is poetry important?
A.J. Huffman: Poetry is important because it brings varying perspectives of our surroundings. Like any artform, it feeds its audience. It gives us something to think about, debate about. Information in any form is pertinent. Poetry is a vehicle for that information. An eloquent, aesthetically harmonious vehicle, of course, but a vehicle nonetheless.

Dupur Mitra: Can you describe your writing process?
A.J. Huffman: That’s a tricky one. Poetry comes to me very visually. Like little tiny MTV-movie-moments in my mind. They come at all hours (specifically the wee hours of the morning when my insomniac muse is running rampant over my life). Anything can trigger it. I have taken to keeping/carrying notepads and pens everywhere. Under my pillow, in my purse, glovebox of car. I have been known to text them to myself. Also, I am still very old-school in my writing. To me, nothing beats the feel of pen flowing across paper. Typing directly onto a blank screen just doesn’t do that for me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I would probably have a mental breakdown without my computer and cell-phone technology, I’m just as addicted as the rest of the world. But I will never give up my ink and pads.

Dupur Mitra: How do you edit your poems?
A.J. Huffman: I’m not gonna lie. I’m a strong believer in going with initial instinct. I don’t believe in drafting and re-drafting, then putting away and re-view/drafting again. That’s not my style. Not that there’s anything wrong with poets who do that. Everyone has their own methods that work for them. I pen my work manually. When I type it into the computer for storage/submission, it gets a review, obviously. That catches a lot of technical/grammatical mistakes. Then finally, I send it to my dear friend and personal editor, April Salzano. I’ve know her for years and I trust her instincts. She gives me edits/suggestions. Most of which I take, though admittedly not all. In the end, I am a creature of instinct. I go with my gut.

Dupur Mitra: Can you talk about the importance of sound in your poetry?
A.J. Huffman: That’s an easy one for me. I’m totally addicted to alliteration. I’ve even been criticized in the past for over-alliteration. Don’t care. I love the idea of sound following sound. Unfortunately, (or so I’ve been told) meaning can get lost in the continuity. I don’t believe that at all. I don’t see anything derogative from continuation of sound. Sound and meaning are not exclusive. As far as I’m concerned one can only compliment the other.

Dupur Mitra: Is there a relationship between your speaking voice and your writing voice?
A.J. Huffman: That’s an interesting question. I’ve never actually thought about it before. I would say there would have to be. I do write with the purpose of publication, obviously, therefore, the idea of reading/speaking the words is in the back of my head. So I would say that yes, my writing voice is “conscious” of what its words would sound like read outloud by my spoken voice. So there is an intertwining of the two on an semi-unconscious level.

Dupur Mitra: How does a poem usually start for you?
A.J. Huffman: It could be anything. Literally. A single random spoken word could trigger an entire collection for me, as could a movie image, a glimpse of morning sunrise. Anything. Poetry is everywhere. At any given time, I have 5 to 15 different collections in progress. Each one different from the next. Not to mention what I call “poetic miscellany”. That’s a file for all the poetry that comes forth without a collection to tie into. I have never believed in writing one specific type or style of poetry. There’s just too much inspiration out there. The subject dictates the style. So everyday is a new adventure in poetry for me.





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