Sunday, July 10, 2016

Process Notes: When the Border is a River Changing Course

85º feels like 94º ~ believe it or not, this is a "cool spell" to be replaced in coming days by 100+ ~ a good rain yesterday staved off the need to water ~ our yard is small, our water supply plentiful

With today's draft, I now have 15 collages and 7 drafts. Last week, I wrote about a "girl born at the edge / of a copper-colored river" but didn't have time to do process notes.

"Didn't have time to..." is a bit misleading as it is summer and I'm not teaching. However, I have spent a good deal of time in the past week working as the director of the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference (with a post to come soon on that). When not collaging, writing, or directing, I'm watching Cubs baseball. All y'all need to send up some good Cubbie vibes as we slumped over the last two weeks and are definitely limping into the All-Star break.

But, to poetry. Today, the "girl" grew up into the "woman born of wheat / and the brown thrasher's wing." Here's a problem. The bird in the collage is suggestive of a brown thrasher, but is probably a brown thrush. Still, I need it to be a thrasher for the sound and the rhythm, and for the implied verb, so a thrasher it is. I hope that if this project ever sees the light of day in publication that all my birding friends will forgive me.

3.5" x 6" detail
As I drafted, I was struck by the parallel between the collages and my usual word banks. Instead of having a collection of words rattling around on the page, I have images, but, unlike a word bank, there is a method to the images; they are not random, as I mean for the collages to also stand alone as art. However, as I scratched lines into my journal, I kept turning my head slightly back to the collage to let the images guide the poem's unfolding, in the same way I flip back to my word bank as a poem emerges.

In reading over today's draft, I was struck by its narrative nature. Don't get me wrong, it's a lyric narrative to be sure. I doubt anyone or anything could wring the lyric out of me, but there is definitely a "character" at the heart of the poem (the woman) and there is a clear setting and implied conflict.

So, I read over the other 6 drafts, and the lyric narrative is alive and well in each. There are two poems that do not feature girls or women, instead feature a part of the skeleton. But that piece of the skeleton takes on the role of the "character."

When I set out to do this project, I wanted the collages to guide the poems, and I wanted to create the collages on instinct and not on planned images. Now, however, with 15 collages of 20 done, and with only 2 that don't feature a girl or woman figure at the heart, I wonder how to remain in instinct as I create the last 5. Perhaps that is not possible, since I started drafting poems before I finished all 20 collages. This is a summer project and I wouldn't have had time to collage all 20 first and still draft 20 poems with the kind of time for mulling and ruminating that is required.

And that is an important note. It takes me 3 - 4 hours to create a 9" x 12" collage (not counting the hours and hours I spend clipping images), and I'm mulling and ruminating the entire time as I try out different images on the blank page. Then, on each day that there is drafting time, I flip through my portfolio and study each collage again. Those that aren't selected for the day's draft, continue to float around in my brain even when I'm not at the desk, so I'm mulling and ruminating, creating fodder for the next writing session. I do not believe that I could create a collage in the morning and draft a poem from it in the afternoon. The part of me that is able to generate poems, needs to sit and ponder.

And that's what this writing life is all about, giving our obsessions time and room to germinate, ready for the next writing session.

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