Friday, April 2, 2010

Adrafting We Will Go

62º ~ the whole sky a thick gray cotton mat of cloud cover

Friday, glorious Friday, the day when I push all other thoughts aside and set pen to paper. Not that there is anything dreamy about it (as the previous sentence may have suggested). As I said last week, I've been a bit rusty due to two weeks of not writing in the middle of March. This week again, it was a bit of a struggle.

I've been thinking about two diverging ways of writing. It seems from interviews I've read, that some writers write with an idea about the content of their work already formed. In other words, they spend a lot of "head time" ruminating about possible subjects and lines and/or characters/plots if fiction-driven. Then, when they sit down to write, they've already formed the core of the idea of the work and craft the words around it. I tend to follow the other path, along with many others. My "head time" is spent just trying to be a sponge and absorb words and images as I go about my life. Then, when I have my writing time, I go to that "compost heap" as one writer calls it (Natalie Goldberg, I think) for interesting sounds or images. The lines I dream up as I sit before the page actually determine the idea/central core of the work, and I am often surprised by what springs forth. I do not think either way is "right" or that one is better than the other. I'm just fascinated by those folks who can set out to write a poem about a certain subject and be successful...when I try to begin this way, mine are usually horrible.

But back to today's work. As usual, I read and read (Sarah Vap's American Spikenard today) and thought about two phrases Vap happens to use (once each): bien fait and elimination dance. The first the French for "well done," the second a type of square dance where the caller "eliminates" dancers by calling out who has to leave the dance floor, for example "Men wearing white shoes with black laces." FYI: Michael Ondaatje has a great poem titled "Elimination Dance" in The Cinnamon Peeler's. I tell you all of this to tell you that nothing came of those thoughts.

Do you think me a tease, Dear Reader? Please forgive.

Then, I rose from my desk to trade my empty coffee cup for my water bottle, and as I walked in the quiet house, a line fluttered around me: "I was nothingstruck." Yes, I saw the word "nothingstruck" as one word, a corruption of moonstruck. Much scribbling and then much typing and deleting later, the sparking line no longer in the first person and no longer the first line of the poem, I had a draft of sorts. It's titled "In a Horseless Country." I really like the form it took: couplet, tercet, single line, repeat three times, and I do believe this form fits the mood and content of the piece. I have high hopes it will survive the re-visioning to come.

Word on the street is that people like images with their words, so I grabbed this pic of a statue of a Morgan horse. When I was a kid, the book Justin Morgan Had a Horse, by Marguerite Henry, was one of my favorites, and the movie was okay too. The poem has nothing to do with Morgan horses, FYI.

Update on last week's draft: "What Devours Us is Worth Devouring." Lots of broiling energy surrounded the drafting of the poem. I believed in the draft last Friday. On Saturday, I hated it and was sure it was trash worthy. Today, I read it again and believe in it again. This is why I let things sit a bit. If I didn't, I'd kill the newly drafted before they had a chance to really get their wobbly limbs under control.


Anonymous said...

Reading your drafting process is always such a comfort to me--you & I seems to share similar habits!

Happy weekend!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, M. Glad to know I'm not alone in the process.

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

Gotta keep writing down the bones.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Q., so glad you know that book! Natalie Goldberg was one of my first book-read teachers. I bought Writing Down the Bones at the Walden Books in Waterloo in the summer of 1990.