Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rosemary Nissen-Wade – personal reflections

1. Why were you interested in joining Project 366, and how did you see it relating to your art practice before you got involved? 

On the basis of ‘Notes for the Translators’ I formed the opinion that if Kit invites me to participate in a project, it’s likely to be one I’ll be glad to participate in – which Project 366 has now confirmed.

As described to me, it sounded interesting and lively, and so it proved to be.

I didn’t have any specific vision of how it might affect my art practice; I was open to discovering the possibilities.

2. How does working with other people affect your art practice/ process? Does it also affect / change your style of working? In what way? 

This wasn’t new to me. I’ve been involved in poetic communities and collaborations for decades, on and offline. It’s an enriching experience; I like to try new things, learn new techniques, discuss them with peers. I find it inspiring.

3. Has Project 366 been a good way for you to be with others in an art practice community? Does it feel like a community to you? Why?/Why not? How?/How not?

Yes, and yes.

It was only a month, but I loved it and found it exciting. It did feel like a community, and in some respects more so than other online communities I’m in. The small number of people, and all posting to one blog, helped. Also the different rules of engagement. Out in the wider blogosphere, one is expected to comment on others’ work and keep the comments encouraging. At 366, comments are not obligatory, which was refreshing. I did make quite a few when moved to, because I’m used to doing that, but it wasn’t going to be a breach of etiquette or cause hurt feelings if I didn’t. There was a warm and welcoming atmosphere all the same.

Also there are very different levels of experience and expertise within most online groups, including avowed hobbyists. Nothing wrong with that in principle, just the way of things – but it was a lovely change to feel that at 366 people had a similar level of commitment to their art, and a similar level of sophistication. I saw work that excited and delighted me. This sense of being in some ways on the same wavelength also created a feeling of community for me.

I made several new friends with whom I’ll be maintaining contact; I think that’s the clincher.

Reconnecting with some old acquaintances was surely part of it, too.

4. Do you see 366 as a dialogue? If so, in what way? Can you see ways in which it could be more of a dialogue or a better dialogue?

Yes, I did experience it that way. I think it was due to the knowledge that everyone else there was looking at everyone else’s posts, whether or not they commented or wrote answering poems. And looking at them intelligently, moreover. It was the assurance of being heard; and it was my reciprocation. Again, this must depend to some extent on it being a smallish group. And, though we’re all very different poets, and no doubt different personalities – and then there are the amazing graphic artists – I felt a compatibility.

What dialogue there was – including comments, and poems sparking off each other ­– seemed to happen naturally and spontaneously. I would be wary of trying to force a dialogue in artificial ways … but willing to entertain any interesting ideas anyone may come up with.

5. Has working on daily artmaking through Project 366 affected your work or the way you work? If so, how?

Hard to tell. It happened that during the same month I was invited to participate in a private experimental online workshop with five other poets I already knew – some well, some slightly. That very specifically involved some new ways of working – ­ digging deeper into the psyche – which at times flowed over into the work for Project 366. It was a lot to take on in the same month, as both required a high level of commitment; but I wanted very much to do both, so I did, and they were going on simultaneously.

I felt that the calibre of work at 366 had me lift my game; at the same time I had a more playful approach to being there than I did to the workshop. However, because they were happening at the same time, it's difficult to separate out which project had which effects.

I was, before this, writing new drafts several times a week, so doing them daily didn’t seem as if it would be much of a stretch; but it did in fact make a difference. I thought I was not only writing more, but consistently writing well. However, this output comes with the dilemma of having even less time for later revision, so I’m not sure I’d want to keep up that pace.

There's one effect specific to this project. In my other online groups I often respond to prompts (and some of them I included in the Project 366 posts). While they work to release things from the subconscious, it was good to write ‘from scratch’ more often.

6. Do you think others in the project have influenced you / affected your ways of working or your subject matter?

I not only make art, I love being on the receiving end. The greatest effect I noticed was my joy in experiencing so much lovely stuff – lovely in all sorts of ways.

There was a small, temporary influence on subject matter in that some of us explored the same themes now and then. Also I was intrigued by a couple of people doing ongoing things which unfolded bit by bit, a little more every day, and thought I might try something similar some time. But it was only a month; with more time I think both these things might have had a greater influence, and no doubt there would have been other influences too.

7. How have you found the cultural diversity in the project so far? Has this had any effect on you? Do you think things could be different / better in this regard?

It was exciting, as an art appreciator. However I also enjoyed being among other Aussies with some shared background.

I don’t have any suggestions.

8. Do you think there's what you could call a learning process going on through the project? If so, could you describe that?

I think one always learns, if only by osmosis, by being exposed to good art. Again, a month is too short for me to discern anything more.

9. How do you see your role in the group?

A guest for one month. Occasional lurker henceforth. Willing, obviously, to contribute what I can in this discussion. If the Project continues and develops, and if I can rejoin – who knows? Probably still just one of the mob. Then again, things I brought in from elsewhere – new forms, particular topics – inspired some spin-offs; I guess that might continue.

10. How has participation in Project 366 affected your sense of yourself as an art practitioner?

It restored a sense of belonging that I didn’t know I’d lost.

These days I’m more of a presence in the international online poetic community than in the Australian literary world – by my own choice. I don’t submit to paper journals and anthologies any more unless specifically invited (which does sometimes happen, but more often by international than Aussie publications). For one thing, I prefer to post on my blog rather than bother with those publications which still regard that as ineligible ‘prior publication’. 

I know that for some people in Oz it was as if I had disappeared or gone awfully quiet or something – particularly those who imagined I was still living somewhere in Melbourne these last 20-odd years.

Even my involvement in local (far northern NSW) poetry events has decreased considerably as I’ve got older, and now does not happen. (It usually means long drives on country roads at night.) And there was the name change too. It’s surprising how many people can’t make the leap from ‘Rosemary Nissen’ to ‘Rosemary Nissen-Wade'.

And then, some of those who did know I was still around had a barely-concealed assumption that posting to blogs instead of submitting to journals means the work is inferior, less ‘literary’.

Being part of Project 366, even briefly, and having the work taken seriously by the other participants, has made me visible again amongst Australian poets – in my own mind at least. (It’s perhaps all in my own mind.) I didn’t realise how much I’d missed that.

But if the question is to do with matters of craft, then the answer is that the experience hasn’t appreciably affected my sense of myself as an art practitioner. It’s nice to have the crafting recognised – but that does happen in the wider community too.

11. How would you like to see Project 366 develop for the second half of the year?

I think it’s fine as it is.

12. What do you imagine after Project 366? (Both in terms of group art practice with a comparable vehicle and in terms of your own personal practice.)

I’d be interested in travelling in a comparable vehicle – though time constraints would be a consideration. Participating daily was valuable, I felt, in forging the feeling of community as well as for my own output, but it might not be practical for me long-term.

As for my personal practice, I have so far continued writing daily drafts, which was unexpected. I like the habit. But I don’t always work on them as hard – depends how much time I have to do that on any given day – and some don’t get posted to my blog. 

I don’t know that I’ll continue writing daily poems in the immediate future. I have some big writing projects coming up, on topics already decided, which will probably take over. But I now have daily writing as an ideal, a pleasure, so maybe....

Post Script

Reading back over this, I see I've mentioned excitement several times. Yes, that would be what I most got from the experience, as both reader and writer. Thank you all!

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