Rae Armantrout is for me a consistently engaging and inventive American poet. She is also a notetaker:
I carry a blank book journal around with me most of the time and jot down things I see and hear, especially if they seem puzzling. . . .In case anyone out there reads World Literature Today : I have a review of Armantrout’s most recent book, Just Saying, in the November-December 2013 issue. Lines from one of the book’s poems, “Circulating,” reference the notebook habit: “See something, say something. // Jotting in a notebook.” There’s Armantrout’s wit at work, converting a national-security mantra into a poetics.
Anyway, I end up with a lot of unconnected journal entries. I know a poem is really on the way when I see how two or more of these separate notes might have some inner likeness, might connect. (I prefer improbable connections.) That’s why so many of my poems are divided with asterisks or numbers.
“My Poetry Isn’t Built on Hope: An Interview with Tom Beckett,” in Collected Prose (San Diego: Singing Horse Press, 2007).