Friday, July 29, 2011

Draft Process: Flailing in the Dark

80º ~ cloud cover, rejoice! ~ the best chances of rain in weeks, but nothing on the radar yet, I grow impatient for the rain,

Well, friends and fans of the Kangaroo, I must confess that I did not go easily into drafting today.  I tried all my tricks, including pre-visioning the drafting time last night and as I ate breakfast this morning.  I simply couldn't get excited about drafting.  (In hindsight I wonder if I feel I've "finished" my series of tales because I drafted the poem that fits as the last in the group, and whenever I've finished a group of work I've had to flail around in the dark for a good long while before another spark gains on the tinder.)

I am proud, though, to say that I kept my BIC (butt-in-chair) and slogged through the resistance. 

I decided to start with a word bank but instead of using a book of poetry, I challenged myself to use some of the torn out articles and receipts and whatnot from my pile under the printer.  (See image here.)  My first column uses words from an article in a local who's-who and what's what for Little Rock.  The article is about a group of young, hip men who formed a hat club b/c they want to have a reason to wear vintage hats.  The club has evolved to being a community volunteer group as well.  The second column uses words from a piece of creative non-fiction from Orion.  The piece is a collage of sentences and brief paragraphs about humanity's relationship to the earth, to religion, and to each other.  Finally, the last column combines two much shorter pieces: a back order notice from a small press and an ad for a book by Andrei Codrescu.  Imagine my surprise when the word "quicksilver" showed up as part of the street address for the press and as an adjective in the ad.  You know I had to use it then!  One last note, in a recent email exchange with a poet friend, whose husband is a travel & nature writer, the idea of poets who use the word "gossamer" a lot came up (and not in a good way).  So, for fun, I added "gossamer" to one of the columns. 

With my words numbered, I used the random number generator at and got to making pairs.

It was interesting to see the different types of language crashing up against each other and I got some interesting collisions.  I scribbled out a few rough lines in the journal and thought I was on to something.  Moving to the computer, I typed up what I had and then realized that I wanted to expand on the first half of what I had started.  By the time I had added on to my first two-three lines, the other two-three lines I had drafted with them in the journal, no longer belonged in the poem.  At first I tried to cram them in there, but finally, I re-wrote them in the journal to save for another poem. 

The poem begins:

Years ago, the map of my home
folded in upon itself and creased
along the gossamer bloodlines.

image from

FYI: map and folded came from the back order notice (Matthew Nienow's book, The End of the Folded Map); home and creased came from the article about the hat club; gossamer came from my friend's email; and bloodlines came from the piece in Orion.

Once I started drafting on the computer, I paid less strict attention to the word bank, although I did go back to it from time to time.  I just didn't rely on the pairings I'd created.  I also let words suggest other words.  So, one of my words from the hat club article was "architect" and it became "draftsmen" and later "architecture."  My point here is for beginning writers: don't marry the prompt.  The prompt just gets you going.  Feel free to ignore the rules at any point!

Back to the draft.  It came to a natural closing, and I'm left with a draft that is right in my comfort zone: six stanzas composed in tercets = 18 lines. 

Faced with searching for a title, I read and re-read the draft, aloud.  (Another note to beginning must read your drafts out loud as you work...poetry is an aural art form.)  As I searched for a title, I remembered reading a blog post that reviewed a group of poems where the poet (sorry, can't remember who) had titled all the poems with "Notes: the date."  I realized that the poem I'd drafted had the meditative feel of a journal entry.  When I was in grad school, I drafted a poem titled "Notes Toward a Biography: 'some date I can't remember.'"  It never made it past the drafting stage but most folks loved the title.  At first I thought I'd use that.  Then, I remembered the word "biogeography," which is the title of a book of poetry by Sandra Meek that has been on my to-read pile for far too long.  It will be next up!  Looking up the definition of biogeography, I found this:

"a science that deals with the geographical distribution of animals and plants"

Ah hah!  The poem is now "Biogeography: 7/29/11" and I can see a way to write more of these poems that explore a personal "geographic distribution" as a way to further mine my obsession with my roots while also including the flora and fauna I love.

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