Friday, May 24, 2013

Draft Process: October Chorus

66º ~ holy cold front, Batman!  beautiful bright sun, slight breezes, a lawn to be mowed

The garden plot with new plants settling in.

Well, I'm adrift in the sea of summer reading and writing.  This means that everyday, I can wake up, go through my ablutions and breakfast, and then spend as long as I want at the desk.

So, this morning I drifted for a bit and cleared the desk.  One tactic I use is the notepad to-do list.  I write down all the errands that are on my mind, household chores that need to be done, etc.  No, I don't really need the reminder of the list, but it helps me organize and compartmentalize.  Once I have the list and accompanying paperwork, letters, coupons, etc. organized, I set it to one side.  If something else pops up and tries to interrupt my time, I can quickly add it to the list and get back to work.

I started off by grabbing the first book on the top of my to-read stack: The Philosopher's Club by Kim Addonizio (Boa, 1994).  A good friend recently found a used bookstore out of town with a plethora of poetry and brought me back a sampling.  As I started to read, I also had the angry sisters in the back of my head, along with the idea that the last two poems I drafted for them were squat, long-lined stanzas with little white space and no indents.  At the beginning of Addonizio's book, and I only got through three poems, the poems are longish single stanzas with longish lines.  They are clearly narrative, which a lot of the angry sister poems are as well.  Suddenly, in poem three, I remembered a technique I used in Blood Almanac for the poem "June."  I based it on Lucie Brock-Broido's poem "Am Moor" from The Master Letters. 

Brock-Broido's poem begins:

Am lean against.
Am the heavy hour

Hand at urge,
At the verge of one.  Am the ice comb of the tonsured


"June" begins:

Am aerial. Am light catcher and reflector --
flickering goldfinch wing, patch of blood
on the blackbird's shoulder.  Am wind lover.

As I was drifting through Addonizio's third poem, all of this was running through my head, but I couldn't quite remember what I had written for "June," so I picked up my battered reading copy of BA and flipped to the poem.  I didn't look back at L B-B's "Am Moor."

Weirdly, the lines in today's draft mirror Brock-Broido's.  They are in couplets with the first line shorter than the second (although not as drastically different in length as in "Am Moor").  Still, I perked up at the idea of this condensed language and the test of turning it to a plural first person, "are."  The actual first line I scribbled in the journal didn't work as a first line and is now much later in the poem, but the draft begins:

Are sisters. Are bound
by blood, muscle, & face-shape.

I knew I wanted to use the word "chorus" in the title as a way to weave in the collective voice.  The month comes from when a cataclysmic event occurs in their story, an event that sets them on their path of vengeance, although they end this draft as:

"Are bled dry. Are deflated girl-shells."

One major difference between the sickly speaker and the angry sisters is narrative arc.  With the sickly speaker, she came to me wounded, ill, and on the verge of death.  All I had to do was follow her on her medical journey and discover whether she lived or died.  With the angry sister, the timeline is all over the place.  Who knows where this "project" will go and if I will eventually organize the poems in some sense of chronology, but I am missing that sense of forward motion that I had with the sickly speaker.  Still, I'm happy for whatever drafts arrive!


Kathleen said...

Oh, yay, on reading about your process again! And the garden. It got cold here, too--furnace came back on last night.

I love The Philosopher's Club!

Sandy Longhorn said...

And thanks for reading, Kathleen!