Friday, October 28, 2011

Draft Process: Tongueless, I Conjur Her at Will

46º ~ some grayness to the beginning of this day, leftover clouds from yesterday's rain should clear shortly, the intensity of autumn is upon us, wearing new thick flanneled pants and a sweatshirt, the electric heater kicks on and off

Wow!  I'm thrilled with today's draft process, Dear Reader.  (I confess, a crowing opening like this scares the humble Midwesterner within.)  Still, it was a breakthrough kind of day.

As I puttered through my morning routine and saw C. out the door, I was thinking of drafting and thinking of my sickly speaker, wondering if she had more to say.  Yes, indeed.  As I waited for the coffee to brew I started wondering how the speaker wound up in the hospital/asylum where she now lives.  Hmmmmmmm.  Then, shazam.  I had a line:  "My mother brought me here."

I ran into the office to jot it down in the journal, and as I wrote, I realized that the speaker doesn't have a mother.  (Just that instant knowledge about the character rang true.)  And I remembered a poem I wrote a while back, "Body Sewn Together with Twine and a Dull Needle," which appears in The Collagist.  In that poem the speaker talks about "a woman [she] called mother by mistake," and I knew I had my answer.

The opening of the draft now looks like this:

A woman I called mother by mistake
brought me here when the fever

made me shiver even in a scalding bath.
The water lapped the edges, spilled ...

Slowly, it has been dawning on me that while this series about the sickly speaker began in August, I have, in fact, written several precursor poems pointing in this direction.  The above mentioned poem in The Collagist is one.  Another is "Lament at the End of a Long Convalescence" recently published by Connotation PressThis makes me wonder if there are others.  I will have to review some older material and see.

Now, I arrived at the "whole draft" pretty quickly today, and the breakthrough was that I didn't rely on a word bank or reading to get inspiration.  Once I had that spark while standing in front of the coffee maker, I was on my way.  It was interesting, though, I did keep reminding myself to use the dense, rich, intricate language of Lucie Brock-Broido, and to keep reaching for the truth about the speaker.  The poem took a few wrong turns, but I think I was able to identify them fairly well.  Time will tell, of course.

When it came time for a title, I tried to come up with one on my own to no avail.  Since I've made the practice of using bits of lines from others (mostly L B-B), the titles all have a similar feel.  I tried on several of my own making and was not happy.  Going back through my notes, I realized that I had used Rilke's Poems from the Book of Hours once and I returned to it.  After much searching, I finally seized on a line from "Put out my eyes, and I can see you still," "and tongueless, I can conjure you at will."  Rilke's book is a meditation in conversation with God, which actually works fairly well with my speaker, even though she is not concerned with God.  She is, however, in conversation with people who are not with her, so the meditative quality and the lack of response parallels Rilke.  In any case, I changed the line a bit and came up with this:  "Tongueless, I Conjure Her at Will."

I do have one worry about the draft.  As many readers know, there are previous drafts in which the speaker communicates with her mentor, who is a woman.  Right now, I see that mentor as distinctly different from this new woman who has entered the narrative.  Given that I'm not naming anyone, if this "pseudo-mother" remains, I may have to work to distinguish the two.  This is also problematic because they aren't with the speaker, so their own voices aren't present and distinct.  Hmmmmmm.

Oh, and there are chrysanthemums in the poem, so I thought I'd show you all a picture of the mums I planted a few weeks ago.  Here is a moment when my life helped with my art.  After I planted the mums and the blooms all opened beautifully, I couldn't resist running my hand over the flowers.  When I brought my hand away, I smelled the scent of the mums on my fingers and was amazed at the intensity.  I had either forgotten their smell or never taken the time to notice it before.  In a totally organic way, the flowers and their scent fit perfectly into today's draft, and if I hadn't taken that moment in the sun with those blooms, it might not have happened.  Wow!

Until the next time, be happy, be well.


Anonymous said...

Gorgeous mums! Since we've got a Nor'easter heading our way for tomorrow, I appreciate this last glimpse of autumn.

Your series becomes only more compelling with each new draft!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, Marie, I'll be hoping your Nor-easter blows itself out in a brief burst!

Thanks for your kind words.

Erin Lynn said...

Your draft process notes are wonderfully interesting! Thank you for taking the time to do this - it is inspiring...

Sandy Longhorn said...

You're welcome, Erin! Glad they help in some small way.