Friday, August 26, 2011

Draft Process: This Vigil I Keep

72º ~ while a third of the nation waits for Hurricane Irene, we revel in a return to more normal temps and a lowering of the god-awful humidity that has plagued us for so long, clear skies, the sun tips through the leaves over my left shoulder, the time of daybreak arriving noticeably later these days

Hello to any students from Al Maginnes' class.  I hope you find something useful here!
Hello as well to any students from Matt Foster's class at Central High...go Tigers! 
Many thanks to Al and Matt for suggesting the Kangaroo as a resource for their student-writers.

Today, I came to the desk on rocky footing.  It's been a hell of a week.  I've taken on several new responsibilities at work, and I'm feeling the stress of starting up several projects at once.  Time is at a premium and I wake up two to three times a night with my brain racing.  I keep a "to do" list by the bed so I can add to it as new tasks become apparent.  So, I'm stressed and tired and anxious about what awaits me at school today.

And all of that has the makings for an excuse to not write.  These are the dangers in a world where most poets do not make their living from writing poems.  We have jobs and families and friends who all need us.  So, I'm happy today, that I kept my BIC (butt-in-chair) and prioritized poetry for these few hours.

Here's a picture of what my process looked like today.

There is coffee, because it gets my brain snapping out of the fog of sleep.

If you've been following along, you know that I've fallen into a very workable habit.  I read the work of a poet I admire and gather (ahem...steal) words from them that are full and ripe.  I gather strong nouns and verbs and the occasional adjective, although I know I'm adjective heavy in most poems so I try to steer clear as much as I can.  I used to gather these words in regimented rows and then number them and use a random number generator to create pairs that would spark lines.  The process has changed over the last few weeks.  Now, I let the words fall where they may on the page, and they seem to be generating their own energy there. 

I read until I come to a line that feels like it has enough power to become a title, enough suggestion to hint at a complete poem.  Today, I've been reading from a little pocket book I picked up a while back.  It's Rilke's Poems from the Book of Hours translated by Babette Deutsch.  It's more philosophical and spiritual than the Brock-Broido and Baggott that I'd been using last week and the week before.  Still, there were some stunning words there.  In the poem "If Only There Were Stillness," I found the line "the vigil I would keep" and I was off. 

Oh, and I also used a few of my inspiration cards to mix a few images in.  This helps me not be tied too closely to the book I use as a leaping off point.  For more on the inspiration cards, go here

The draft became "This Vigil I Keep for Comfort" and falls in line with the speaker I've kept returning to since the beginning of August.  This is the speaker who is ill and grappling with a body that will not heal.  (Again, I'm fine.  Mom, don't worry!)  The poem begins:

These hands cradle the fragments
of hushed gestures.  They possess
a stammer and a tremble,

The poem ended up being eight tercets, which is right in my sweet spot.  Per the usual, I'm in love with the draft at the moment and keep reading it out loud over and over, savoring the sounds and making minor adjustments.  In a few days I will hate it, so I'm going to revel in the love as long as I can!


Kathleen said...

Love it. And thanks for reassuring your mom.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, K. :)

matfst said...

Thank you for this great resource! We went to the computer lab last Thursday and used the links on your blog to familiarize ourselves with the online literary mags out there. They LOVED your blog, and I wouldn't be surprised if you have some new, regular readers.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Matt! C. told me you used the blog in class. You are so kind.

Laura said...

Sandy, you have such fascinating methods. They are both methodical and creative. I love this combination. I am drawn to method sometimes, because order gives me peace, but I often feel like it is antithetical to creativity.

I had some collages I made a long time ago so I dug them out and I wrote a really awesomely strange poem entitled "Teeth of My Heart Smoking a Cigar." I also ended up using some words from this fashion magazine, because the poem had all these touchable textures. The article was comparing different kinds of fabrics that are often confused. But words like "herringbone" and "gingham" and "seersucker" just deserve to be in some poems. I think I was channeling a little Dara Wier with this poem, but I like it. Thanks!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Wow, Laura, so glad my post spurred this new draft. Thanks for sharing!