Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Draft: Word Bank Propechy and Another Fairy Tale

27º ~ good sun that promises to have some teeth today to chew through this everlasting snow and ice ~ the roads are largely clear, but houses, yards, decks, etc. still thick covered ~ a forecast that calls for temps in the low 40's so a huge melt off is in store...welcome back to MUD

Today has been a gift of drafting, and I actually completed two drafts in the last hour, something quite rare for me.  Again, I've gone to bed thinking about poetry.  Erin over at Being Poetry has been writing about staying focused and I feel a kinship to what she wrote recently about simply thinking about writing even when she wasn't writing as a way to focus.  She says it better here

When one of the cats woke me up at 3 a.m. and left me unable to get back to sleep, I started thinking about poetry some more and lines began appearing.  Miraculously, I remembered them when I woke up (after drifting back to sleep around 3:30).  However, once I put them down, I realized they had no spark in the light of day.  So, I turned to creating a word bank and used Luke Johnson's new book, After the Ark.  I've read the first of three sections and am blown away.  Will post about it soon.  In any case, I scanned the poems I'd already read and noted down the strongest words, working up to about 55 words.  Then, I used to generate random couplings and wouldn't you know it, a poem began to show itself after about six pairings.  If you know Luke's work (and if you don't, go read it now), you know that there is a lot of religion going on in there, so I had some power-packed words to begin with.  There are also lots of down-to-earth domestic words as well.  I ended up with a poem I'm unsure of but that I'm calling "Prophecy" until something better comes along.  The first tercet is: "Soon the city will learn to live / crowned by dangers, / the air marked by blackbirds,"  And no, the blackbirds don't fall from the sky, even though that epic flock death at New Year's happened just a hundred miles from here.

Well, "Prophecy" slid out onto the page pretty quickly and yet I felt like I had more to give today.  "Prophecy" also ended one notebook and I got to get out a new one!  Woo Hoo!

Yesterday, I received some really great feedback on "Cautionary Tale for Girls in Love with Fire."  I have my three fairy tale poems from last fall, but I knew they weren't quite right.  I just couldn't find the final tweak to set them straight.  It turns out I was over-writing the endings. long have I been doing this and I'm still making beginner mistakes!  I beat myself up for a minute and then took the lesson in stride.  I was able to look at all three poems this morning and see the revision shimmering there, waiting for me.  With that good vibe feeling, I decided to try for another one this morning.  I opened up the fresh notebook and thought about what other prairie element I could tackle (I've done Fire, Blizzard, and Lake).  It came to me suddenly: "Fairy Tale for Girls Enthralled by the Storm." 

Here's a picture of the process.

If you can read these words, please don't steal them!
I started in the journal on the page before the one pictured.  I wrote three lines of landscape description and found myself off track.  Then, I remembered that the others all start with 'the girl,' so I started with her again.  "Once there was a girl who loved the prairie wind," and I was off and running.  I got about half of the poem into the journal and then switched to the computer for the rest.  (You can see Luke's book at the top of the picture as well.)

So there you have it, Dear Reader, another day of drafting that I get to put in the Win Column!  Thanks for reading and commenting and following the process.


Josh said...

I love those lines, Sandy! Thanks for sharing them. I'm quite intrigued by this random word bank exercise, and would be really interested to see a draft of that poem when you think it's ready. Thanks for this post.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Josh. The random word bank exercise is one that almost never fails to spark something. I've written and published a handful of poems from this prompt. It's also fun to mix words from different poets.

I'll email you if/when the draft comes to anything.

Kathleen said...

Yay for new journals, random word couplings and banks, and fairy tales! Woe for the birds, alas. Mud. Childhood poem favorite..."I love to feel it squish between my toes...."

I always love to read about your drafting process. And I have read the last section now of Blood Almanac and will re-read as a woman listening in the dark. I am very, very moved.

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

An inspiring post, Sandy.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Aw, Kathleen, thanks for the kind words.

Q. your posts about your youth in Waterloo have been inspiring me, too!

Justin Evans said...

Thank you for the insight into your process. I'm not nearly brave enough to share mine when it comes to the individual poem on that level!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Justin. For some reason, these drafting notes help keep me on track. In part b/c of readers like you!