Sunday, July 1, 2012

Draft Process: General Orders 17

93º ~ suddenly the forecast has lost it's trip digits and rests at 99º for the next seven days ~ praise be?

I did not mean to draft a poem today.  I swear it.

I've been using these last few days to work through the stack of loose papers on my desk.  During the school year, I have a tendency to tear things out of magazines and journals, or print off an online article I think I won't be able to find again.  By the end of the spring semester, the stack is quite daunting.  As I've been attempting to whittle down my "to-read" books, so have I been working away at this stack.

I came across a beautiful piece of creative non-fiction from the Sept/Oct 2011 (nearing the bottom of the pile!) issue of Orion, one of my all-time favorite magazines.  It was Melissa Kwasny's exploration "Rock Drawings of the Northern Plains," part poetry, part descriptive essay, part history.  The language was so intense, that I decided to form a word bank before I decided on whether to keep the torn-out pages to use at school or recycle them.

After I finished that, I happened to flip the page back in my journals and I saw that I'd filled a page with notes on "General Orders 17."  This reminded me that I'd heard a spot on the local NPR station about these orders, which were issued in 1862 and condoned the forming of militia groups to "harass the Union Army" within the state of Arkansas. The text is only available as audio, here, scroll down to "General Orders 17."  This reminded me that I'd heard this blurb on June 20th while driving to a follow up with the oral surgeon, and that I'd been so struck by the language of the blurb and the orders that I'd come home and looked up the audio archive and jotted out the lines that echoed the most for me, forming another word bank.

So, while I might first have been tempted to draft something based on Kwasny's words, and will definitely use them in the future, I ended up drafting "General Orders 17" based on the NPR spot.  It begins:

Approach the body by preying without distinction.

It is a set of 12 imperatives, each standing alone as a single-line stanza.  Not sure that's going to remain, or even if this draft will hold together as a poem.  It is definitely not in the voice of the sickly speaker.  Instead, I imagine it as a set of orders given to the whitecoats by the AMA or one of their professors of medicine or something. 

I can see it fitting in the mss. as another aside, much like the definition poems, but I am uneasy about it.  Wouldn't I need more like it for it to fit?  Without other "general orders" poems, wouldn't this one stick out?  Does it have to fit in the manuscript?  Oh, what if the definition poems and a couple of general orders poems made it into an appendix? 

Oh, no! What if the sickly speaker has really left me???

No comments: