There, I found myself still making art—drawings and paintings—but writing words to go with them.
What advice do you wish you had gotten as a teen?
Quit trying to blow your own house down.
Tell us about a time when you were brave, or bravery was required of you, or you saw someone else being brave.
I stopped a dog fight by wrapping my coat around the attacking dog's head. When a dog bites down on another dog, it can't let go until the fighting chemicals have drained from its brain. You can beat that dog to death, but it can't let go. The only way to make it let go is to disorient it by plunging it into darkness—ergo, throwing a coat over its head so it can't see. A vet told me that once and I've never forgotten it.
So one morning, I was enjoying a phone call chat with my friend on the way to work when I heard a dog crying. Across the street, I saw a big dog had bitten down on a little dog back and the hysterical owners could not separate them. People were yelling out of their apartment windows, "Shoot it!" and stupid things like that. Something in me snapped. I told my friend, "I gotta go," ran across two lanes of traffic, taking my coat off as I ran. I wrapped my coat around the big dog's head—its eyes were red and glazed over—and...it just...released the other dog. Ta da!
How do you start a poem? Give us a window into your process.
I listen to the words and phrases people are saying—in person, in music, on TV or in a movie—and write them down. Poems work best for me when I shove two bits of language together that, at first, I don't think will fit. I've found that if I decided what the poem is about before I write it, it turns out very flat because there's no discovery. The unknown is the thrilling part.
What is your motto for getting through the tough times?
I don't have a motto, but there have been times when, at the end of the day, I have to write down things I'm grateful for that happened that day. "I have an apartment," "I learned something new," or "I have good friends, and one of them made me laugh in an email." It helps.