Creativity in Isolation: Poet Toi Derricotte on Writing and Revising

April 30, 2020

By Nancy Kuhl

We asked poet and co-founder of Cave Canem Toi Derricott what she has been thinking about, working on, and reading in this time of isolation and quarantine. In response, she invited us to peer into her creative process as she writes and revises a new poem over three days.
Watch her reports below … and follow her lead: ”I want you to try this experiment. Try three days of your own writing process. The first day, just write something that comes to you. The second day, go back and look at it again and revise. The third day, look at it again and see what the poem has been trying to teach you.”
Check out the finding aid for the poet’s literary archive at Beinecke Library online here: JWJ MSS 207; the papers of Cave Canem, the organiztion Derricotte co-founded to support African American poets and poetry, are also in our colletcion: JWJ MSS 130.

“Poetry is really the thing that keeps me going” 

Watch the first report here:

“What a poem is is discovered by writing it” 

Watch the second report here:

“every poem is a lesson for the poet” 

Watch the third report here: