Friday, February 12, 2010

Ice Inspired Drafting



33ยบ and a weak sun struggling to break through the solid white sky

Yet another Friday has arrived and with it the need this morning to draft a poem ASAP to meet my goal of a poem a week. I did draft what feels like a poem, but with less confidence than last week's draft. Today's poem arose from this photo that a friend sent to me of her japonica covered in ice. I have been watching a tangle of icicles outside my own window all week and went out to take a few pics of those (after I drafted).

I must admit that while I had jokingly emailed my friend that I was going to write a poem about her picture, when I cleared my desk this morning, I had no idea what I would write. I cast about and felt forlorn. Let me here admit that I received a rejection this week that cast me off track a bit. This rejection note included a specific reason the editor wasn't accepting the poems, and usually that is encouraging to me, knowing how busy and over-worked editors are and knowing that someone took the time to try to help me make my poems better. However, this comment had to do with syntax and style and included a phrase that I live in fear of hearing about my own work. I freaked out. Luckily, I have two great poet friends who received my hysterical emails with gracious attention. It turns out that the group of poems I'd submitted happened to repeat a certain syntax that didn't gel with this editor. My poet friends assured me that they would let me know if I ever really was doing the thing I feared, and I trust them.

Back to today. There I was, clean desk, classical music barely audible, fresh page, and nothing to say. I looked at my friend's icy japonica. Nothing. So, I grabbed the top book on my to-read stack: Ruin by Cynthia Cruz. (I'll be posting on this book soon!) I started reading. As I read, that editor's voice echoed in my head and I was pulling apart Cruz' syntax to try and unravel myself from the knot of misery I'd gotten into. I read and read. Finally, a few lines emerged and I put pen to paper, hesitantly. After a few minutes I had to set down the book and focus on the poem that was growing in my brain. It did not grow easily. There was a lot of reading aloud of the few lines I had and then sitting staring out at my now-familiar icicles.

Eventually, I found my way through the poem, letting it show me where it wanted to go. I did fall back on my comfort zone of couplets with longish lines, but I'm okay with that. They really force me to focus on each phrase and image. I need the white space for breathing. The entire time I was drafting, I was writing against the voice of the editor from that rejection slip. I think that's a good thing. I don't want to fall into a tired pattern of syntax, but I also don't want to adjust my style because of one particular editor's words. Don't get me wrong; I do prefer to draft without those voices in my head, only allowing them in once the poem has gone to the revision stage, but this is the week I've had and these are the images and voices I have at hand today.

6 comments:

Nancy Devine said...

i find consolation in knowing i'm not the only one who finds rejection difficult and frustrating from time to time.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Strength in numbers, and I know we've all been there, so there are many, many, many of us!

Anne said...

I do wish my Japonica had the power to drive away the voices of critics---especially the voices of critics that get lodged in one's own head, a space that should be left free of such profanity.

Those blooms frozen will thaw and open because it's a beauty of a plant--- hardy and resilient.

Sandy Longhorn said...

A., can't wait to see the flowers. Maybe you can help me find a good spot to plant some here.

Kristin said...

Once I got a rejection note that said, "Well, your poems certainly are accessible, aren't they?" My non-writer friends viewed this as a compliment. I could hear the negativity dripping in those words, though.

Eventually, I wrote a poem about it! I think I'll post that poem on my blog later this week!

Sandy Longhorn said...

K., thanks for the support!