Monday, June 10, 2013

Draft Process: Had We Been Born Boys

82º ~ preparing to weather at least seven days in the high 90s with the heat index tipping toward 110, the humidity reaching "unbearable" stages, still from inside the house the sun and the breeze cheer me

Welcome back to a more positive outlook, dear reader.  I did take the weekend off from poetry, spent it with Cheryl Strayed's Wild (though I still have the last section to read), the Chicago Cubs (1 for 3), housekeeping, and collaging.  Still, as I read Strayed's intense memoir, I found myself jotting notes in my journal about the angry sisters.  One of those notes prompted today's draft.

That note was the phrase "had we been born boys."  While gender is not at the forefront of Strayed's story, which is about navigating the loss of her mother, the undercurrent is filled with gender, as Strayed remarks again and again how few women are also hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, and as she comes to terms with her own use of sex as a way through grief.  Somewhere in the reading I thought of the angry sisters and how they wield the tools of their father (hammers, saws, axes, etc.) with ease, and how influenced they are by their father's view of women.  (And here, some autobiography seeps in, as, yes, I am one of three daughters and no sons.  Yet, I'm happy to say that the angry sisters have taken on a story of their own that deviates wildly from mine.  For example, anyone who has ever seen me try to use a hammer would testify that I am a total klutz and unskilled at building/fixing things.)

At first, my draft began with the above phrase as the first line, but it quickly became apparent that the phrase would become the title of the draft.  The rest of the poem is just 15 lines, three stanzas of five lines each, each line roughly eight syllables, give or take...I'm no formalist.  This line and stanza length presented itself quickly and wholly in the first stanza, and then I had to tinker to get the next two to fit, but that tinkering helped me focus my images.  The three stanzas imagine how the sisters' ease with their father's tools, the influence of his "stash of girly magazines," and their quest for vengeance would be different if they were born male.

My worry about this draft is that it all seems so completely obvious, a feminist cliche.  Time will tell, and I have to remember Anne Lamott's encouragement of shitty first drafts!


Kathleen said...

My boy was born today! 23 years ago.

As a newborn, of course, he was appropriately...first drafty!!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Happy birthday to your boy! Well into the multiple drafts of life, getting better and better!

John Vanderslice said...

As usual, Sandy, I'm impressed how instantly and consciously you let your reading feed your writing. That's such a lesson.

Sandy Longhorn said...

John, I'm struck by your verb "let," which implies I have some conscious control over this. Maybe I did a long time ago, but it all just seems part of the practice now, something of which I'm not always aware. I'm simply always gathering phrases and sometimes those phrases come directly from someone else's writing or sometimes they manifest out of thin air but are inspired by someone else's writing. I do know that when I was an undergrad (and really before that) I copied quote after quote into my journals, language that made me sit up and take notice. I guess all these years later, it's working!