Kenan Ince’s poems, “Trickle-Down Theory,” “Let’s Trim Our Hair in Accordance with the Socialist Lifestyle” and “Slaine” are featured in this year’s summer issue. We asked him a few brief questions on craft. Here are his answers.
Q: Do you have any super secret rituals that help your writing process?
A: One of my favorite rituals involves lighting some cleansing incense around my computer, pouring myself a healthy glass of bourbon (neat), and putting on some Bitches Brew -era Miles Davis or Flying Lotus. Then I open up the OneNote folder called “Inspiration” where I keep poems or fragments that I found online, as well as overheard phrases or thoughts that intrigued me, and start freewriting off of something in the folder. This usually seems to work pretty well.
Q: What parts of your writing have you put the most focus on?
A: Lately I’ve been trying to let my own eccentricities and humor into the writing more. My ritual really helps me open up some of the queer er and more arch parts of myself, and that tends to blend with the serious political focus that so much of my old writing had.
Q: What is the thing you tell yourself most when you are revising your poems? Do you have advice for other poets in this regard?
Q: The thing I tell myself most recently is “don’t average out your poem.” I used to try and fit every suggested revision I received into the latest version of my poems, but this sometimes tends to make my work inoffensive to everyone but deeply inspiring to no one. Instead, I try to bring some freewriting into the process. I hear the Beatles used to not write anything down when they were jamming because they figured if it was really good then they’d remember it the next day. I try to rewrite pieces from memory without looking at the first draft during the revision process, figuring that if something’s good, I’ll remember it.
Q: What’s your favorite sentence from a piece of writing?
Tough one, and not a question I think I can answer, but as for my current favorite line, I’d have to go with either
Whenever in this city, screens flicker
with pornography, with science fiction vampires,
victimized hirelings bending to the lash,
we also have to walk…if simply as we walk
through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties
of our own neighborhoods.
-from Adrienne Rich, “Twenty One Love Poems”
This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless about to be birthed, but already felt.
-from Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”
Q: A lot of people talk about MFA factories churning out carbon copy writers. What are your thoughts on authenticity and integrity in writing in such a competitive field?
I personally don’t currently have the time or money to get an MFA, since I’m almost done with a math Ph.D., but I think the MFA can be a wonderful way to dedicate lots of time to writing. As I mentioned above, I think if one listens to everyone’s critique and tries to apply it all to their work, the result might not be too “authentic.” “Integrity” as a poet, to me, is about opposing, not perpetuating harmful structures of oppression such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., with one’s poetry (even if trying to oppose them, a la Vanessa Place).
Kenan Ince is a mathematics PhD student from Dallas currently living in Houston. His work has been published in Word Riot, HEArt Online, and The Hartskill Review, among others. He has been a featured poet in Houston’s Public Poetry and First Friday reading series.