Sunday, February 10, 2008

If only I were James Tate

I keep thinking about what James Tate said, how he never revises. Because whatever I say, write, think, I want to take it back. Spruce it up, give it new clothes.

It’s true. I revise everything. I change my mind constantly. I’m always making mistakes and trying (to no avail) to fix them. I even dreamt about it last night. I dreamt I was in bed with an Asian man who smelled like curry. Then he wasn’t really a man. He was a woman with red fingernails. Or she was in bed with us too. She told me to stop sleeping with her husband. No, no, I said, I would never do such a thing. I have never even met your husband. I began to apologize profusely. But it was too late for apologies. I mean there I was in the bed with them. And in their dreams.

My friend, Z, has a dream coach (no shit) who has taught her how to fix her dreams.
She does this in her sleep (literally). It's kind of like having the pope overseeing her dreams.

I’m not sure I want to sleep or dream with a pope. I have enough poetry popes. If there is such a thing. I’d like to get rid of them all. I’d like to be like James Tate and say, whatever I did, it’s done now. And I will think of title in a matter of minutes. Ten minutes max. And then, the poem is over, like a bad dream. Or a good one. Who knows?


Virginia Konchan said...

Hi, Nin!

I'm new at the blog thing, so I don't know how else to write you except by responding to your latest post (happily, as I also love James Tate- favorite poems- "Fuck the Astronauts" and "The Distant Orgasm)!

Refresher- I run into you from time to time and you were my personal critiquer (sp?) for my short story at last summer's Imagination (about a young mother? you suggested fragmenting the story, which I did!)

Our most recent encounter was in the cafe at the AWP Hilton- we were scaring our friends with remembrances of your baggy underwear poem!!

Anyway, I know this is last minute, but CSU and Case folk are organizing a Valentine's Day poetry reading at Visible Voice books in Tremont (, and I would love for you to come, and read as a Featured Reader (starts at 9 p.m.) with a few other area poets. Totally understand if you can't or already have plans, but I thought I would ask, and if you can't make it, maybe we could pull together a reading at VV sometime this Spring- it's a great new venue.

Hope you enjoyed AWP (loved the graphic on your blog:), and hope to see you soon, one way or the other-

Ginny Konchan

Adam Deutsch said...

I'm definitely pulling your book from the AWP-pile sooner rather than later.

This post is a poem, right?

Nin Andrews said...

Thanks Adam--and no, not a poem, just an honest response to James Tate. He really says he never revises! I can't imagine. I am so jealous.

And Ginny, email me at I'd love to read, so let's figure something out. Will you read too?
I will never forget your story at Imagination. It was really good - - - about that disfigured (mentally and literally) woman, and I was so sure it was at least semi- autobiographical. You had me convinced. When you showed up . . . this beautiful and together woman, I thought, where's my student?
And yeah, the underpants. I should have saved a pair. They might fit me now.

Valerie Loveland said...

Wow, the amount of time I would save if I didn't have to revise!

Zaphos said...

The idea of not revising is so alien to me; I get the picture of James Tate being caught at 3 AM in a McDonalds, secretively marking up old drafts.

... if he doesn't revise, does that mean that he also discards a disproportionate amount of 'finished' work?
It makes some sense ... if you assume that a first draft has some probability p of being 'good enough' to be a final draft, then you can just write k/p poem first drafts and expect k final drafts. If the revision process makes you take R times as long to write each poem, then you need it to improve the probability of a final draft by the same factor of R to give the same 'poetry throughput' as Tate's method.
It's just that for me p is 0 so I would definitely not save time from Tate's method!

Nin Andrews said...

Wow, that's brilliant. I never thought about it. I do both. I mean I throw away first drafts and never look at them again. And I revise until I am insane. I guess it's the worst of both worlds. I love the mathematical equation you made for it.

Karen at Pen in Hand said...

Two things.
1. A dream coach??? Wow! I wanna know who that is. Seriously.

2. I took a class once from Steve Sherrill, a poet and author of the novel "The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break." He was a good teacher, but what I most remember is him talking about his writing process being so painstaking that once he was done with a section, he was pretty much done with it. I think I wished it could all be that way for me, but alas - I am not painstaking enough.

Amy said...

Tate was great. I too was jealous. But he did say he doesn't revise because he writes so slowly... I think he said he may sit before the blank page for an hour and a half before he puts one word down. Love your dream!

Amy said...

Hi Nin,
I love your blog. I love your poems. I also love Denise and Nick. And Stacey and David. Sorry I missed your panel at AWP!

Nin Andrews said...

Hi Amy,
I love "Subway Blunder," though for some reason I thought it was "Subway Blonde." I keep misreading things. I must need new glasses!