Thursday, January 19, 2012

Draft Process: A Dark and Gelatinous Ruin

29º ~ the sun rising and burning off a thin cloud layer, predictions of upper 50s, maybe 60 for the next few days, a small breeze to the south, even smaller to the west,  my robin has been replaced by the cardinal, who does not hurl himself at the window, thank the stars

A brief interjection before the process notes: many, many huge thanks to Traci Brimhall for mentioning the Kangaroo in one of her posts, "A Little Delirium," at Her Circle.  I was only sorry that I didn't have a draft note up a few days ago for anyone who visited.  My patterns have been upended by the beginning of the semester, and I have a new teaching schedule this time around.  I'll be teaching on campus MWF (along with my online sections) and am now scheduling my drafting day for Thursday.  For any new readers, I schedule BIC time (butt in chair time) four times a week during the academic year, but some of that time is given over to other poetry business and reading.  My goal is to draft one new poem per week when I am teaching. 

I'm happy to say that the sickly speaker (my current project, a series of poems whose speaker is a woman with a difficult to diagnose/treat illness, who is hospitalized) did not let me down.  Last night before bed, I did my self-reminder about using this morning to draft.  Sure enough, an hour after laying down, the sickly speaker spoke up.  I fumbled for my journal (someday, I will remember to move it from the desk to the bed before I lay down) and scratched out what she had to say.  This time it was about how she is learning to predict her fevers based on a certain type of headache that appears first.  In other words, she is learning the course of her disease. 

The draft today begins much as it began last night:

Before the fever replenishes and returns,
the pain advances on the hollow spaces
behind each eye. 

For the time being, the poem is drafted in four stanzas of five lines each.  This is very uncomfortable for me, as I love the couplet and the tercet.  However, after the first stanza appeared as one unit and then the next stanza developed, quite naturally, as five lines again, I tried to listen to the poem and not to my comfort zone.  Time will tell.

As the poem developed, the whitecoats (what the speaker calls the doctors) inserted themselves as a disapproving force.  Here, I should retrace my steps and say that before I turned to drafting the poem, I gathered words from Quan Barry's Asylum.  One of the things that Traci says in her blog post, linked above, is that she was advised to "revise toward the strange," and then she includes Yeats saying that in the later years he revised only "in the interests of a more passionate syntax."  Those two things were percolating in my brain and I thought they were good advice for initial drafting as well.  Also, one of the things I love about Barry's work is the "passionate syntax" and "the strange" combinations of images that work so well for her.  So, I wanted to borrow some of her energy by making a wordbank.  I gathered words until I came upon the word "alms."  Instantly, in my head, I heard the rhyme with "balm," something my speaker craves.  That worked its way into the second stanza, with the speaker trying to prove herself worthy in the scathing eyes of the whitecoats. 

Some bee balm for my sickly speaker (click for link)
When I reached what felt like the end of the draft, I went searching for the title.  For any new readers, when I began writing this series back in August, I started using bits of lines from Lucie Brock-Broido for my titles.  I don't always use the bits word-for-word, but often as a jumping off point for the title.  Today's title comes from Barry's poem "lullaby" (one of my all-time favorites from Asylum).  The line that leaped out at me is "...your kisses dark and gelatinous.  They ruin things."  I used the word "jelled" in the poem, so "gelatinous" fit really well.  I tweaked the line to "A Dark and Gelatinous Ruin."  I'll let things rest for the time being and see what rises.


And now to turn my attention to that unwieldy NEA application!


Kristin said...

How strange: I read the title of your post as "A Dark and Gelatinous Rain," which was fabulous, I thought. I also love the word ruin. I may play with these ideas a bit myself.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, Kristin, your dark & gelatinous rain has me thinking of Blade Runner now. Good luck with the rain/ruin play.

Kathleen said...

I love couplets and tercets, too, but I am scared of gelatinous rain.

Sandy Longhorn said...


Quintilian B. Nasty said...

Sounds like a great set of poems...

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Q. This series has tons of energy right now, so I'm happy to roll with it.