65º ~ a soft, gentle, & constant rain, just above a drizzle
Today's draft is in part a result of my frustration with our internet provider and a conflict entering its fifth day. We are waiting on a new modem, which should arrive tomorrow and will magically make everything better. (Excuse my skepticism.)
In any case, normally, I take care of email, check in on FB, and read the blogs before I move my mind to that more concentrated space required of reading or drafting. So far, I've been successful during those periods at ignoring said internet distractions, as long as I've cleared the path first. Well, today, my attempts to do so were stymied by dial-up speeds instead of my lightning fast wi-fi modem/router combination. In frustration, I turned to my journal.
Last night, a couple of lines came to me in the wake of reading Malinda Markham's book earlier in the week. I thought I might return to those. Instead, four small, white sheets of paper fluttered out of the journal. Aha! Notes I'd taken during Christian Wiman's reading at the Arkansas Literary Festival. (I'm not going to link back to previous entries for Markham and Wiman given the internet difficulties, but feel free to use the search feature to find them.)
As many of you know, Wiman has experienced a return to faith after many years away from it. He grew up in a household of religious fervor, spent time as an atheist, and has returned to explore his faith in the wake of a serious illness. I say all of this to set the stage; my notes are mostly religious words I captured during Wiman's talk. On the first page of those is a fragment: "feeling through the sounds of words to the form of poetry," something Wiman said about the difference between poetry and prose, since he was reading from both. Then, there are a half a dozen religious words, and then this, "The Angry Sisters Experience Their Conversion," which I knew even then would be the title of a poem. This knowing the title first is incredibly rare for me. The rest of the pages of notes are mostly words, and then there is this: "Poetry = being @ the mercy of language ~ Prose which can always be written," more on how Wiman sees the two genres.
Today's poem grew from these notes and a memory from my childhood. The family across the street from us must have been evangelical, although I don't remember that word being used at the time. In any case, for a brief time, my sisters and I went to the neighbor's after school, probably on Wednesdays, with a ton of other neighborhood kids for what was essentially a Christian youth group. I only have fragments of memories from this time, but those fragments found their way into the poem, which begins:
In a neighbor's basement, their ears
were at the mercy of language
The poem goes on to describe the way some children can get caught up in the fervor of religion; however, the angry sisters' conversion is not at all what the neighbor thought it would be. In other words, that fervor becomes a match to the kindling they've laid in their quest for vengeance.
In today's draft, I have two squat stanzas (one of 9 lines, one of 10). I'm not sure where my beloved couplets have gone, or where my sprawling, white-space-laced drafts are. Interesting.