Thursday, July 14, 2016

Draft Process: When Instinct Rules the Hand

79º ~ a massive storm cell shuffled by within a few miles of us and we got nothing but some strong winds and dark skies (yes, I feel punished and left out)

First, I want to share a full collage. Today, I got to start a new journal, which means a few days ago, I collaged a new cover. Here it is, a bit spare compared to most of my others.

The draft process is really unchanged in terms of working with the collages directly; however, since this is a planned project, I've noticed something new today about the connections within the drafts. I've never actually set out to write a series of poems in a project like this. While Alchemy is a project book, that came about on its own and surprised me each day that another poem arrived in the series. As I started this self-ekphrastic project last month, I wondered if the poems would be organic, would they be "forced" by the images. I still wonder this, but am learning to live in the wonder and not worry about it too much.

Today, I spent my time with the images, made my selection, and then sat and looked at it, turning to my journal to scrawl out whatever lines jumped out at me from the looking. And, here's the interesting thing: line breaks and form.

The first two poems I wrote based on collages are left aligned. One is in couplets and the other in stanzas of varying length. Then, I began using varied indention instead of left-aligned stanzas (think Charles Wright although mine never seem to sprawl all the way across the page). I've been using that broken form with lots of white space for pacing for the last six drafts. So today, as I began on the 9th new draft, I started trying to make the lines that were coming into my head fit that form. It was a habit, and perhaps a reflection of the fragmented nature of collage. Also, the way I do collage is not really in the tradition of either filling "all" the space on the page or using just a few fragments to make a bold statement. I'm more clutter with negative space throughout (negative space in collage = indention and white space in the poem?). But back to the draft. Only when I turned to the computer did I realize that this draft needed to be left aligned.

What I find interesting is that while I'm often working out loud even as I handwrite the beginning lines, it isn't until I get those lines onto the screen that the full impact of the form comes through. It's only when I see the lines in black and white (and continue to read out loud in fits and starts, no longer embarrassed from hearing my own voice and my own poetic missteps) that I know the form of the poem (that is when working in free verse, as I usually do).

Today's poem, "When Instinct Rules the Hand" begins:

With her back turned to harbor
and hearth, the girl born crossing
thresholds has taken a thread to time

I really wanted words like "turned" and "crossing" and "thread" to be spread across the page, but the poem didn't work that way. This draft is about a girl taking control and determining her own direction, so the more musing, chaotic sprawl didn't work. As I'm always telling my students: form marries content (sometimes whether we want it to or not).

As always, I'm not revealing the complete collage for the day's draft, just as I don't provide the full draft of the poem. Here's a detail, though.

4" x 4.5" detail

Today's count: 17 collages; 9 drafts. Getting closer!


Molly said...

Go, you! Love that you're doing this and sharing your process with us.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, M. I think we need to tell beginning writers much more about the doubt that accompanies us every day. Support from friends helps!!!