Friday, October 21, 2011

Draft Process: The Ashes of My Familiar

45º ~ beautiful slanting light, harder to get out of bed in the mornings as the sun rises later and later, a gentle teasing of the leaves all there is to show for wind

This morning as I puttered through my habits, I kept the idea of drafting a poem at the forefront of my mind.  I mulled over my sickly speaker, trying to find out if she had more to say.  As I mulled I realized that to continue working with the same speaker, there would need to be some new development in her situation.  I also realized that, eventually, she would have to get better or die, I suppose. 

This brought up the fact of Lou-Lou's death a few week's ago.  Some of you may remember that these poems began in response to all of our trips to the vet these past few months, translating from veterinary medicine into human medicine as a way of working through. 

So, I was wondering about death and my speaker, and it dawned on me that someone could die in the same institution and she could comment on it.

Having done all of this pre-thinking, meant that my normal word gathering business was skewed a bit.  I did read some Lucie Brock-Broido, but this time, just the notes section from The Master Letters, and I did collect some words.  However, since I knew what direction I wanted the poem to go, the words suggested lines much earlier in the process, so I gathered fewer words than usual.  Given this shift in process, the poem came out much more sporadically and involved much more crossing out of lines.

I find this interesting and am trying not to judge which is the 'better' process.

As I drafted, I began with the death of a woman down the hall from the speaker.  This morphed into the woman in the next room, and finally, came to rest with the death of the woman housed in the speaker's room before her, her "pretty predecessor" as she says int he draft.  The poem, in couplets again, begins:

Another woman kept this room before me,
I am sure.  There is a husk of her temper yet

that rides the air.  When I breathe in the burnt
remains, a strengthening returns.  Rest assured,

A glass-making furnace in lieu of a crematorium, click for link

With this draft, I did not have a title pre-selected from a line from a L. B-B. poem.  Instead, the poem took several twists and turns (a few of them wrong and needing correction) as the relationship between the speaker and her predecessor developed.  Here, I had to struggle against "The Yellow Wallpaper" again, as I didn't want to repeat Charlotte Perkins Gilman's amazing work.  Still, that story is embedded in my DNA (a result of repetitive teaching), so it bubbles up into my work. 

Once I had the draft in some form with what I felt had an opening, middle, and closing, I turned back to L. B-B. in search of a title.  Since I've titled the first dozen poems in this way, I felt compelled to do so again.  In "Rampion" (mentioned last week), I found the line "One day I will be buried with the ashes of my familiars."  I cut that down to "The Ashes of My Familiar," and hopefully the poem will show that the familiar is not of the animal variety but the human one.  Still, I think I may have zeroed in on that line as a result of Lou-Lou's death and cremation.  That is how my life finds its way into my art.  So be it.


Molly said...

"The Yellow Wallpaper" so often bubbles up into my work, too. Thanks for sharing your process. I love the title and the few lines you've shared here.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Molly. Glad to know I'm not the only one haunted by the story.

Kathleen said...

Ah, your sweet familiar, yes. Fascinating swirls of process here, like smoke.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kathleen. You are sweet.