Sunday, July 5, 2015

Draft Process: The Tonnage of a Toxic Secret

77º ~ hazy skies, but sunlight filters through ~ sad news: we lost the one robin chick from the second clutch to Friday's storms, must destroy the nest and the nesting place as too fragile for the nurturing

Even when I'm not at the desk, my mind is often on writing these days, and I've been mulling over why I might be in such a "stuck" mode. Sometime in the last two days, I realized that I miss the voice of the sickly speaker. I miss the voice but not the persona, if that makes sense. In other words, I want to get back to that "colloquial baroque" inspired by Emily Dickinson, Lucie Brock-Broido, Mary Ann Samyn, and Lisa Russ Spaar to name just a few.

Today, I relied on another tactic in drafting that rarely lets me down. I went back to a poet whose work I not only love but also find challenging. Lucie Brock-Broido's poems in The Master Letters never cease to amaze me, and even though I've read them all many times over, when I return I feel like I'm reading the book for the first time again. That's the kind of power I want laced through the body of my poems as well.

Today, I opened The Master Letters to "For the Lustrum," and started doing a random word bank. In the meantime, I've also been taken with the Doctrine of Signatures and ways plants have been used as medicine from ancient times to today. From that, I ordered a photocopy of a text called The Art of Simpling by W. Coles ("simpling" was another word for the knowledge of plants and their medicinal uses in 16th and 17th century England). So, I added some words from the first few chapters of this book to Brock-Broido's.

Before I started word-gathering, I also happened to glance at "Toxic Gumbo" in The Master Letters. This poem isn't great for word-gathering if I'm just going to use one poem because it is relatively short. However, in glancing over it again, I remembered/saw again that it is a single sentence in the form of a question with many clauses. It spans seven couplets, or 14 lines. I've often seen the exercise of "write a poem that is one single sentence but is more than four lines long" or some such. So, after I had my word bank and phrases had begun to suggest themselves, I flipped back to "Toxic Gumbo" to see how it began. It starts: "Am I to be a patient / Saved by the grave experiment..." So, I took the structure as my starting point. My title also comes from Brock-Broido's, in a way. The draft begins:

Am I to be cursed with a curdled tongue
for the length of this luminous season,

(Can you tell I'm fixated on breaking out of this writing drought?) And wouldn't you know it, but my poem comes in at seven couplets as well, even though I discarded the book after getting the draft started. I did use many combinations from my word bank. I also read and re-read the draft aloud as I went, after the initial rush of lines. Of note, I did more revision of the first draft than normal, as I noticed that I "cheated" by using several comma splices toward the end of my draft rather than sticking to the syntax I wanted to model. For some reason, I was averse to a poem having more than one question mark, especially to having three question marks in the last five to six lines. So, I spent some time re-working the syntax, leading to a few new discoveries in the last two couplets.

Bodily, I feel a settled sense when a draft has come together and offers some hope for becoming a full-fledged poem. I'm happy to feel such today.

Until the next session...

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