Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Draft: Hard Won

43º ~ the sky still mixed gray and white in the wake of last evening's storms, one small splotch of blue directly in front of me (Update: the blue in front of me expanded to fill the whole window while typing this post, I face the west, woo hoo, good omens)

Oh, Dear Reader, today's draft was a battle hard won. 

I did say my mantra last night and I was happy thinking about the drafting time today.  It was a long week at work, with lots of grading going on in the afternoons and evenings.  I've been fighting off a sense of exhaustion along the way, and all that is normal for this time of year.  Also normal is that my ability to concentrate is beginning to fray a bit.  So, last night and this morning while I would remind myself that I was going to draft a poem, I couldn't sustain the concentration to think on what I might have to say.

I know this may seem forced to some of you, this prescribed writing time.  All I know is that more times than not, it works for me.

This picture of my desk tells the story of the day.

I began with coffee, as always.  The paper is green because I'm recycling a bunch of fliers from school.  I started by printing out all of my fairy tale poems, which are stacked to the left.  I did this in part because I was curious how many I have: 9, but also in part because a poet-editor friend has asked to see some for possible publication and I have promised to do submissions this weekend.  Here, I may have gotten completely off course by thinking about what's going on tomorrow instead of today.  However, I did remind myself that I have two poems that are more general and don't have the "Fairy Tale for Girls Who..." type of title, but they are clearly part of the same project.  Hold that thought.

Next, I listed all the titles in my journal and thought for a bit about doing another tale.  Nothing sparked.  I thought about the week and why my brain was so jumbled, too much happening in this wild world.  A line or two formed: "It's happening again/ the world unraveling... ."  I admit I drafted a full poem then, but I wasn't happy with it. 

Unsatisfied, I decided to read some poems.  You see the latest issue of Barn Owl Review there at the bottom of the pile in the picture and Traci Brimhall's book Rookery.  I'm looking forward to both of these reads; however, I started with the journal, and the poems were amazing but I couldn't sink into them, still fretting about a draft. Maybe I needed to stick with poems I knew by heart from poets I'd lived with a long time.  So, I called up "The Colonel" by Forche and "Sonnet XVII" by Neruda and did a word bank.  I turned to my random number generator and formed pairs.  I couldn't believe it...NOTHING!  This exercise has rarely failed me and I began to wonder if my tank was simply EMPTY.  I turned to Brimhall's book and read the first poem.  Wow!  I couldn't wait to read this book, but I knew I needed to read it when not trying to write.

Still struggling, I pulled out two inspiration cards and out of desperation simply listed all the images I saw.  One of the cards featured a painting of a bull kicking wildly and with its head thrown back.  There were a lot of allusions to other countries and to the southern US, but nothing struck me.  And then, I wrote, "And so, why not, another tale."  But this time, I didn't force the form of the "once there was a girl."  Instead, I let myself write about one of my doubts; there are no witches and no prince-charmings in my tales.  As I said before, this has been worrying me.  And now, there is going to be a movie based on Little Red Riding Hood and making the wolf a werewolf...I think.  I've seen the commercial a dozen times this week and I'm still not sure how the tale is being twisted there.

With the images of that beautiful blonde woman in her dramatic red and all the danger hinted at in the commercials, I started the poem that I'm calling "The Contents of Our Fairy Tales."  It begins:  "No witches.  No wolves. / The blood of the cow slaughtered / and dressed is enough for fright." 

Enough.  The draft and I are a bit scarred today.  Only revision will save us, and that's for tomorrow.


Kathleen said...

1) I love your brain.
2) "The Colonel" is one of my favorite poems ever. (It scares me.)
3) Yes. Coffee.

Sandy Longhorn said...

1) My brain is blushing!
2) Me too. Read it for my Comp I classes yesterday and talked about Libya.
3) YES!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting addition/meta-poem to your Fairy Tale series! If I were as disciplined as you I wouldn't be facing March empty-handed. Muy bien!

(word ver: opure >>> O Pure!)

Erin said...

Thanks so much for letting us peek into your process. It is so inspiring for me! So many good techniques for starting the fire. I'm also suffering from the "wet wood" syndrome - but yay for you for breaking into flame!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Marie (O Pure! indeed) and Erin. Your support means more than I can say.

Molly said...

Sandy, I love the title and the lines you've shared. Very interesting to think about what our tales don't contain. May the revisions come swift and easy.

I just started Traci Brimhall's Rookery yesterday -- I'm through the first section and loving it.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Molly! Can't wait to get into that book myself.

Diane Lockward said...

I've also recently challenged myself with a given daily time for writing. That, and Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, kicked me out of my creative lethargy. Around 11:30 in the AM, I make a cup of ginger tea and head for the kitchen table. When nothing comes on its own, I pull a journal off the heap on the table, open to a random page, find the first line of a poem--don't even read the poem--and write a response to that line. Then keep on going. It doesn't work every time, but it often does.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Diane, thanks, I'm adding your technique to my toolbox. Happy writing!

Kristin said...

The older I get, the more I have to think in terms of appointments, not just for writing, but for everything. Even down to the mundane, like thinking in terms of having an appointment at the grocery store.

But the word appointment does conjure up unfortunate associations, like the dentist.

Maybe I should change my terminology: I have a date with my muse, with my poems-to-be. Hmm.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kristin, how about a "rendezvous"?