A glimpse of the morning's work.
What's this, what's this, you ask, a draft process? I'm as surprised as you are. In the last month I've hinted that the lines were returning. I'm still a bit shy about whether this return will hold, but today I wrote a draft that feels like a whole draft. The coalescence was three-pronged.
1. Two families I know have lost loved ones in the past month and I always return to Mary Oliver's "In Blackwater Woods" when I want to send condolences. I return there for the last part of the poem especially.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
2. This past week, I read Camille Dungy's two books, which I wrote about yesterday. In Suck on the Marrow Dungy has several poems with codes embedded in them. I had known about codes that led slaves to freedom through the underground railroad and other abolitionist causes, but I hadn't known that slave owners also put codes in advertisements or letters when dealing with illegal slave trade. Then, in Smith Blue, there is a long poem, "Prayer for P--," that is an acrostic, using Cavafy's poem "Prayer" as the ladder.
I've heard poets talk of acrostics as a prompt before, but I've never attempted one. As I was reading Dungy's poem, I had a niggle of an idea to take some lines from Oliver's poem (above) and use those letters as my ladder.
3. In my line drafting from earlier this month, I stumbled across a new topic, a topic deeply private and personal and painful, one I'm not sure I'm brave enough to write about. Still, it seems to be bubbling there, wanting out. So, this morning, when the urge to write overtook me as I started reading the latest issue of The Cincinnati Review, I grabbed Oliver's poem and made a ladder of the 6th line from the end.
And without too much wrenching, the words were just there, filling in the lines. This was an amazing experiment for me b/c the acrostic suggested the stanza breaks, and as I was writing toward the next letter (much like an abecedarian) I had less control over the line lengths than I normally do.
The title is "Three Little Kittens, They Lost Their Mittens" because my grandmother used to recite that to my sisters and me and it popped up in my head as I finished the poem. There are no kittens in the poem, but there are children dealing with a loss. I'm not sure if the title will stay or if it hints at how to title these difficult poems I'm diving into. Time will tell.