It's Friday, Dear Readers, and I'm happy to report another successful Friday Draft day. It's been a bumpy week with lots going on up at school. We're in week six, so that's not entirely unexpected. Still, there was a lot brewing in my head last night that had nothing to do with drafting poetry. I practiced my Thursday night mantra: I am going to write a poem tomorrow morning. I am going to write a poem tomorrow morning. I am going to write a poem tomorrow morning. And you know what? It made me so happy to know that.
As I was drifting off to sleep I thought I might try for another fairy tale and suddenly had an image of a girl and a bunch of maps. There it was: "Fairy Tale for Girls who Gather Maps." I leaned over and grabbed my cell phone to email myself the title so I wouldn't forget. I was too tired to get up and write it down.
A couple of things might have led to this idea. One is a poet friend who might be putting together a panel for AWP next year on fairy tales in contemporary women's poetry. Another is a poet-editor friend, who recently asked to see the fairy tales for her publication, when they are ready (thank you K.!). Yet another is an email exchange I had with Matthew Nienow about his poems in the new Passages North, one of which, "The End of the Folded Map," questions what might be lost in our new reliance on GPS systems. In our conversation, he mentioned a recent obsession with maps, and I mentioned that my father had been a truck driver in my youth and I'd learned to read a map almost before I'd learned to read. The last thing is that today is the birthday of two of my best friends, which always reminds me that tomorrow is my dad's birthday. I noticed this just as I sat down to draft (thank you Facebook!).
After I sat down, I started by reading through the poems in my "In Progress" folder and tinkered with a few, gathering steam. I need to do some serious revision b/c I've got quite a collection that might be just about ready to see the light of an editor's desk. After letting the drafts sink in for a bit, I felt the new draft edging its way forward, so I got out my journal. As always, I began with my tried and true opener, "Once there was a girl." I wonder if this is becoming too repetitious as the poems gather in number, but I want something like "Once upon a time," so I'm sticking with it for now.
Once there was a girl, the daughter
of a man who drove a truck
the long length of a long country.
After drafting the poem, in which the girl goes from being quite young to being 16 and able to drive, I was a bit concerned b/c there isn't as much of a Midwestern focus to this one. The poem does reference how the father's routes led him "out of their flat, middle land," but that's about it. I'm going to have to think about this a lot as the poem enters revision stage. Another thing I'll need to consider is whether there really is a fairy tale here. Right now, there's no magic in the poem yet, no being consumed by fire or swept away by a tornado. I'll have to see how that shakes out. Still, the poem wants what the poem wants.
I'm also wondering if I can even call these "fairy tales" since there are no overt witches or spells. I've been going for something more subtle but still with elements of magic realism. Hmmmmmmmm.... .
(Aside: several folks have commented on how much they enjoy these process notes, thanks!, and I just have to say that they are fascinating to me. It is really hard to recapture the entire process of what goes into making this new thing, this poetry. Always, always, there's an indescribable element. I confess, I'm not trying very hard to describe it for fear of losing it. I wonder if this is how the ancient alchemist's felt as they discovered modern chemistry?)