Monday, August 1, 2011

Draft Process: Another Biogeography


87ยบ ~ 100, 101, 102, 100, 100: thus read the predicted highs for the week ~ sigh ~ sweat ~ laundry ~ sigh ~ sweat ~ laundry ~ impossible to even run short errands without feeling it

Today's draft post builds on my last draft post (7/29/11), in which I discussed Sandra Meek's Biogeography as inspiration.  I've read half of the book now and while my poems are drastically different from Meek's, which take on a more global view from time to time, I am indebted to her for the idea spark.

Today, as I was reading more from Meek's book, I had my notebook open and ready, not sure where I would go, but wanting to try to draft a poem a day for this week.  So, I kept repeating "I will write a poem" all morning and I held that thought in the back of my head as I read.  One of the things I wrote down in my journal was this:  "Embrace the I."  For a while now, I've tried to distance myself from the "I" in my poems.  I have worked to avoid autobiography and simply write poems inspired by the things I've heard, seen, done, experienced, etc. without telling the facts of my life.  I've done this as a conscious attempt to subvert the idea of confessional poetry. One of the ways I've done this is to use the third person almost exclusively.  Of course, with the nursery tales, that also fit the form.

However, as I've been reading lately, I've been watching how other poets I admire, Meek among them, work with the "I."  And you know what...I could care less if they are revealing "facts" about themselves or if they made them up.  I like the closeness of the "I," the revelation of the speaker. 

After reading another section of Meek's book, I started having an inkling of where I wanted to go but needed one more push.  That push came by reading over the draft from the 29th.  Again, nothing came pouring out of me and there was a lot of hemming and hawing, but still, I got down a draft: 10 stanzas written in couplets, "Biogeography: 8/1/11."  It begins:

Traveling to the house of born and raised
is slow going.  I dredge a map from muscle memory

that says north by northeast and tells me
when to turn, when to stop and gather strength.

my childhood home, from a recent real estate listing

For now, I'm just happy to have gotten something down, whether it lives or not.  Good blogger & poetry friend Karen J. Weyant reminded me of this when she reported that she'd written a poem a day for July and at the end found she had 16 drafts that might be poems.  Duh!  Headsmack!  I'd let myself fall back into that trap of thinking every draft I began had to lead somewhere final.  I am now reminded that there must be room for failures, for drafts that die on the page; otherwise, the pressure of perfection stifles all the words in my head.  Snuff!

7 comments:

Karen J. Weyant said...

Throughout the month, I had to keep telling myself what I tell my students: Drafting isn't about getting it right; it's about getting it down on paper!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Karen. I definitely needed the reminder!

Nancy Devine said...

i like the "i" of the poem as well. but i'm not always so keen on confessional poetry; i'm kind of bored with myself as well as my confessions. i've been writing short fiction lately which seems to let me keep the "i" without having it be me. i need to figure out how to do that more with poetry.

Erin said...

Ah goodness Sandy, this was heaven sent today. All I've been writing for the past few days are aborted efforts - poems that stall out about half-way through. Thanks for reminding me that they don't all have to be keepers.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Nancy, glad it's not just me. It seems like it should be easy to move the "I" toward the persona and away from confessional, but it gets tangled.

Erin, glad it helped. I love to pay it forward, as I got the boost from Karen previously.

Kathleen said...

Yes, to poem-a-day jaunts as a drafting/generating thing! I always get some good starts when I do it in April. I am doing the postcard-poem-a-day this year in August. I started early, in late July, as recommended, so the poems would start arriving to recipients in August! It's fun and low pressure and might produce starts for longer poems, too!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for chiming in, Kathleen. Good luck with the postcard project!