Writer Becky Kennedy is a linguist and professor at Lasell College. In the following Q&A, she shares her unique perspective on writing as well as the behind-the-pen thought process behind her poem, “Golfing,” which appears in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV.
Can you discuss your job as a linguist and professor at Lasell College? What does it mean to be a linguist? How has your work as a linguist helped you write from a unique angle?
A linguist studies both languages and language: When the linguist documents the parameters of variation in languages, the universal characteristics of language can be better understood. Critical to the linguist’s understanding of language and the language faculty is an appreciation of the completeness of a speaker’s knowledge of language. In my courses on language structure and language acquisition, I work to help my students perceive their own spoken forms as fully rule-governed and beautiful; one approach to that appreciation is the formal analysis of the components of spoken language. Voice is one of the features of spoken language that makes the individual speaker’s output so compelling, and voice is important to the aesthetic appeal of the language of literature. In my literature and creative writing courses, therefore, I focus again on formalism: on the ways in which tonality is reflected in sound and meaning patterns, for instance.
Your piece in TWR takes its title, “Golfing,” from an image in the poem. One of the most difficult (and potentially one of the most important) parts of writing a poem is its title. How do you go about titling your pieces in general and for this piece in particular?
A number of people whom I love have gotten great pleasure from golfing, and so golfing is meaningful to me. In general, I try to select a title that resonates with and adds depth to a poem, either by emphasizing an idea in the poem (as in “Golfing”) or by creating an unexpected connection.
“Golfing” is split into two stanzas. Can you discuss both the organization of your poem and your use of enjambment?
The meter of “Golfing” is syllabic; each line has ten syllables. Within that structure, I tried to utilize the counterpoint of enjambment to emphasize meaning features. Thus, for instance, an important idea like golfing is introduced at the end of a line and a phrase; similarly, sorry is introduced at the start of a line and then repeated. The stanza break is meant to call attention to a setting shift; here, the key words you and woke are highlighted at the break itself.
What is your process for reading (e.g. annotating, etc.). How does this compare to your writing process? In your opinion, what is the relationship between writing and reading?
One special feature of written text is its longevity: & Unlike spoken text, it’s still available to us after we’ve processed it. I try to capitalize on that feature by reading and annotating repeatedly. When I write, likewise, I reread and rewrite; I therefore apply the same revisiting approach to both reading and writing. The two processes are linked in other ways as well: Each reading and each writing event is unique. Both are meaning-creating processes; each time we reread or rewrite a text, we create new meaning. In addition, reading and writing can nourish one another: Reading deeply and broadly can help us to write more richly, and writing can help us understand firsthand the intimate relationship between form and meaning that helps to make a text interesting to read.
Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” What tips do you have for writers suffering from writer’s block?
Because writing and reading nourish one another, reading can be an antidote to writer’s block: Reading inspires, excites, and expands our sense of possibilities. Another great antidote to writer’s block is limited time.
The Worcester Review would like to thank Becky Kennedy for contributing to volume XXXV and for participating in the online blog series. You can find her chapbook, Last Place, on amazon.com.