Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Draft: Fairy Tale with Maps

60º ~ good sun coming up over my left shoulder, some clouds and a small wind, a chance of rain, but spotty coverage predicted, caught a picture of the first daffodil bloom yesterday, all the windows are open keeping the cats happy

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.

There you have the opening tercet and the poem unfolded gracefully, I have to say.  While there are some bits of autobiography in the poem, most of the details are changed in some way to heighten the poem.  For example, my dad only did a few OTR (over-the-road, covering most of the country) hauls, and most of those occurred before I was born or when I was too young to remember.  By the time I was forming memories, he had taken a Midwest route that had him on the road Monday - Thursdayish and was home most weekends.  That's not the story the poem wanted, so I changed it up.  The father in the poem brings the girl a map after every trip.

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?)


Kathleen said...

Road trip! To see the daffodil!

(Thanks for this trip and the map to it, the journey of this poem!)

Sandy Longhorn said...

My mom is so jealous of my daffodil. Hope the crocuses bloom up there soon!

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

From a child's point of view, perhaps a fairy tale is more about an imagined journey of her father and/or the strange tales from the road--the ice storm in Wichita, the troll-like truckers at the Flying J in Joplin, the smell of diesel as heroes slumber in their cabs?

I'm also nostalgic about maps and atlases. You splay out the folds or pages, and you see potential on paper. A GPS just squawks at you.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Q. And, yes, my dad's stories did feel like "strange tales."

I do not own a GPS and never plan to. I still use printed maps, even if I have to print them myself from Google.

Molly said...

I am one of the ones who love to read about your process, and the sense of the indescribable is there for me (maybe because I know the feeling from my own drafting days) without you explicitly describing it. Love the title on this one, and I'm glad you had a good drafting day!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Molly, thanks for the support and understanding!

Kristin said...

Once again you have inspired me! I read your title, and pulled out my poetry legal pad and wrote my response: "Fairy Tale for Girls Who Rely on Mapquest."

I had been feeling a bit desperate because I hadn't written a poem in 3 weeks. I've just been feeling pulled in too many frazzling directions.

I knew I'd want to write to tell you that I finished a poem draft--so I stayed focused. Hurrah!

So thank you. Thank you for sharing your process with us, and thank you for the poems I wouldn't have had without your inspiration.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Wow, Kristin. Thanks. That comment came at just the right moment. Can't wait until our poems can meet each other. :)