Thursday, April 11, 2013

Draft Process: After the Hope of a Happy Ending Passes

44º ~ tornadoes and high winds last night heralded a cold front returning us to cooler temps, wild skies remain

Wow.  A draft!  Let me tell you, Dear Reader, I was sitting at my desk this morning, following my routine, knowing that as it was a Thursday, I would go into work an hour later than I do on MWF, but not really conscious of why.  As I read through the blogs and saw a lot of NaPoWrMo posts, a wee bit of lightning struck me upside the head: "It's Thursday!  That's drafting day."

And this is what I mean about courting the muse and not waiting for her.  I have put a pattern in place, and usually, I focus consciously on that pattern so that I'm thinking "draft a poem, draft a poem, draft a poem" on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.  At this point in the semester, things are starting to fall apart, the gyre is definitely widening (check out Yeats' "The Second Coming" if that's a new one for you).  But, despite the chaos, the pattern remained.

As I stated on Monday, I've been haunted by the news of a missing girl in Arkansas, and she keeps coming up in drafts, but I'm uncomfortable about two things: 1) the ungainly narrative/clumsy prose nature of what I drafted, and 2) telling a story not mine to tell.  This morning, the angry sisters returned and said, "We've got this.  We're mad as hell, and we're going to take over."  So, the new draft begins:

In the woods,
           the angry sisters search

That's the line that sent me spinning to my journal.  I hadn't done any of my normal routine of clearing the desk, reading poetry by others, etc.  I was simply looking at blogs and Facebook and Boom!  The lines also came out in ragged indents, short, compressed, clipped.  All that I'd been longing for in that burdensome earlier draft.

I owe Traci Brimhall yet another debt of gratitude because her work reminds me that there can be brutality and ugliness in poems, and I mean that in the best way possible.  So, when the angry sisters wanted to get ugly about bodily rape and emotional violation (which sadly, is very often the story when young girls and boys go missing and stay missing like this), I took a deep breath and didn't turn away, as I have in the past.  It definitely helped that the angry sisters were speaking.  Their persona allowed me to say what I had been struggling to say in that earlier draft.  Their persona also allowed me to fictionalize the situation beyond this specific case in Arkansas right now.

I have often wanted to write what might be considered political poems, but I've never been able to put those ears on the table as Carolyn Forche does in "The Colonel." (And she does it with the most limber, gymnastic prose poetry ever.  Damn.)  "The Colonel" is one of those foundational poems that rocked me to the core as a young undergrad and made me want to write.   Perhaps I shied from the overtly political, though, because I didn't understand my own need for persona to do so.  Who knows?  Maybe this is just another angry sister poem or maybe the angry sisters just discovered their mission.


Jessie Carty said...

I'm going to put in my time on a new draft later this afternoon, but have to say I LOVE your comments about Brimhall and Forche. I'm reading "Rookery" right not as an ebook, and the way she juxtaposes the dark with moments of beauty is just astounding :)

When I spoke to a creative writing class on Monday they asked about having a writing habit, and I spoke about my own; about how important it is to not just court the muse. So true!

Carol said...

I think it's wonderful you were able to write about such a difficult topic, keeping with it till you got what you wanted. I can't wait to read it someday!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the support, Jessie and Carol. I appreciate you.

Molly said...

I've been thinking about which stories are "mine" to tell, too. But it seems like the angry sisters got yer back on this one, so I say go for it!

Yes to not waiting for the muse!

Meanwhile, the opening line for your next draft (from your weather report): "wild skies remain"

Sandy Longhorn said...

Molly, thanks for the encouragement and for pointing out a new beginning!

Kathleen said...

"The Colonel" affected me that way, too. Likewise, I am uneasy about telling someone else's story. Sounds like you struck the right balance.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for understanding, Kathleen.