"Playing with others is an act of care and vulnerability"
Tuesday, February 21, 2023

headshot with oranges

The Writing University conducts interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various writing programs on campus. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home. Today we are speaking with Clay Scofield, an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Clay Scofield [they/them/their] is a cloud, an orange, and a sonnet, seeking like- minded nebulous accumulations, citrus fruits, and poetic forms to play with across skies, trees, and pages. They are an interdisciplinary artist, writer, wanderer, play advocate, and collaborator.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the University of Iowa?

I wanted to leave my dead-end job and focus on my creative practices, so I applied to writing programs. Two funded years of creative practice and research brought me to University of Iowa. The time and space to devote myself to poetry, study, play, and community have been invaluable and transformative.

2. What is the inspiration for your work right now?

I am inspired by play, intimacy, connection, my community, relationships. I study play and its potential in connection, transformation, and healing. My play re-search is an autoethnographic exploration of how I practice play as creative process to trans-form myself. Then I think about the application of this process to relationships with others and in communities. Playing with others is an act of care and vulnerability. I’m (re)searching in order to write about play as a spiritual and creative practice. Play -- deep play -- is a radical act in our neoliberal society -- with potential to transform, liberate, and heal ourselves, our connections, and our worlds. 

3. Do you have a daily writing routine?

I have daily practices that facilitate writing, even though I don’t think these would look like “writing routines.” Daily meditation allows me to ground through my creative process. Creative work can be spiritually demanding, and I have practices to care for myself to facilitate the creative process. I’m interested in accessing states of deep play, which are immersive flow states engaging in play that generate the possibility for transformation, and so, become dangerous or risky, through their potential to transform/heal. While I have things I do everyday, I also need a lot of variety to keep my brain engaged. I get depressed when things are too routine, so I do things everyday, but I don’t do them at the same times. And sometimes, when writing seems impossible, I just go for a walk in trees and there, a poem. So, mostly I try to be gentle. Though I too am addicted to productivity, so often, I burn out. Then the well is dry. Then I rest. I’m trying to learn to do this before I’m leather. Moisturizing. Breathing. New search, search again, re-search (exhale).

4. What are you reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

Right now I’m reading Breathing: Chaos and Poetry by Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Slow Spatial Reader: Chronicles of Radical Affection, experimental theater plays, and poetry from Jack Spicer, Harryette Mullen, and so on. I read for both research and pleasure, as in research pleases me. I am always a curious wanderer in reading, so that I am re-searching, or always, searching again, following what sparks the electricity of curiosity and play.

5. Tell us about where you are from - what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

I grew up in rural West Tennessee -- so this is where I am “from,” but “home” is a constellation. Gathering dust in my pores every place I live. I’ve moved around a lot since I left my hometown at 18, and each place I live I learn about myself, the world, and the nebulous concept of “home.” I learn ways to “make home,” in relationship with place/space for whatever duration. It’s like any relationship -- with lovers, friends, communities. I create intimacies with the places, and I stay in whatever relationship to them when I move elsewhere, so there are many homes, and I have different relationships with each of them. Over time, they change, and I keep learning. 


Thank you so much!