Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Draft, Or How To Kill Trees With Your Art

73ยบ ~ clean sun, clean blue skies, no haze of humidity mucking up the view

As many followers of this blog know, during the academic year my goal is to draft one new poem per week, and this usually ends up happening on Fridays b/c I don't have to go to campus on most Fridays and weekends can involve family and friend time.  I'm the kind of drafter who needs acres of unscheduled time, although I don't spend hours and hours drafting.  I can usually get something workable happening in two - three hours.  This means that I could be drafting every day.  However, it seems that when I try to draft on days when I have a deadline...I have to be at school by 11:00 on Monday-Thursday...I feel too much pressure and end up watching the clock, breaking my concentration.

***I KNOW this is self-indulgent, and I KNOW that I'm blessed to have a life that allows me three days out of every week when I can create unscheduled days.  I give thanks to the Great Creator every day for this.

So, after battling a stream of ants that had taken up residence in our shower this morning, after running over to a friend's house to water plants & check on the cat, after playing with my own cats so that they might leave me in peace, I sat down to draft.  I have a messy stack of torn out pages and printed stuff from blogs/websites that is terrorizing my desk these days, but I did remember that among the stack were several ideas for drafting. 

The first one I dug out was a poem that had been published in translation and the journal was cool enough to publish the original Slovenian version as well.  I've used the mock translation exercise for years, when I can get my hands on poems published in a non-Latinate language.  The way this works is that you look at the poem in the original language (without having recently read the translation to English) and you start forming lines in English "suggested" by the foreign language.  For example, this Slovenian poem contained this phrase, "ne on nista priotna," which suggested something about neon and prisms to me.  You doodle around with phrases until it sparks lines for your own poem.  Sadly, today, this just led nowhere for me.  I'll hold onto the Slovenian poem and try again with this later.

Next, I found a print out from a Guest Blog by Aimee Nezhukumatathil on the Ploughshares blog.  In this blog, Nezhukumatathil discusses the Japanese form, haibun, which is made up of a prose poem finished off with a haiku at the end and usually on the topic of travel.  Definitely go and read this blog post for some great information.  I don't usually write prose poems, but having traveled to Jamaica last month, I thought I might be able to use some of my photos from the trip as inspiration.  Having the new form to try was also a big help.  Since the form was new to me, there was no pressure to be perfect right off the bat. 

My not-so-great attempt to capture the full moon in a photo.
I opened up my iPhoto program and set my landscape photos of Jamaica to play on slideshow.  One of the first images was of the full moon from our first night in Negril.  Thus began the draft.  Per usual, I began in my journal with pen to paper.  I got a good hunk of work done there and when it began to take on a recognizable mass, I switched to the computer.  What I found as I worked on the poem was that I was consciously aware of the danger of cliche in writing about a trip to the Caribbean.  In fact, the first few attempts were so rum-soaked, I had to wring them out to dry. :)  Eventually, I found my way and have completed a draft with the working title "Haibun from Negril," but I hope that changes.  How boring.

I think I came close to fulfilling the goals outlined for the Haibun in Nezhukumatathil's post, although I'm not sure I got close enough to the dog walking on the ceiling that she mentions.  As this draft goes toward the revision process, I'm making the note to think about magic realism in my revision.  Just as a thought.  I was also glad that Nezhukumatathil mentions the fact that in the contemporary haibun, there's room to play with the haiku syllables as well.  I'm trying for the traditional 5-7-5; I am trying, but right now, it wobbles a bit in the middle.

Today's title also mentions the killing of trees.  In my usual method, I get to a point where I believe a poem is "complete" in the sense that I can feel a beginning and an ending.  When I'm winding down for the day, I'll read and re-read the "complete" draft out loud, tinkering and tweaking a bit.  Then, I print out the draft and date it.  I might find a few more things to change along the way and go through 2-4 printed pages before putting the poem in the "In Process" folder.  Today, for some reason, and I think it was the prose, I kept printing, reading, and tweaking over and over and over.  I think I went through 15 sheets of paper, yet I really did believe that each time I printed it that would be the last.  Silly me, I kept re-reading it out loud and finding things to change.  A danger here is changing too much at this stage.  I need to let the poem sit and breathe and dry its new wings before I start poking at it too much. 



It's probably a good thing that I'm not much for prose writing as there might not be any pine trees left in Arkansas by the time I got done printing and re-printing my drafts.  Oh, and remember that I never use clean paper for drafts.  I always print drafts on the back side of paper I've brought home from work: extra handouts, stuff that gets put in my mailbox or handed to me at meetings, &etc.  Also, we recycle everything here at the home of the Kangaroo.  Hopefully, the trees will forgive me for today.

2 comments:

mariegauthier said...

Ha! That column by Aimee Nez, & the haibun by Jeannine that she posted inspired me, too. But I got zero traction. I think I don't have a good enough handle on prose poems in general to then try to tackle such a hybrid. So guess what I'm working on instead...

Good luck with your draft! And happy weekend! :o)

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, M. Hope your writing is going well, too.