Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Draft Process: To Live in a Far Country

85º ~ dew point & heat indices climbing back, "feels like" 92º ~ adult robins are feeding one chick, the second clutch not nearly as prolific as the first, the sun is out in force, thunderstorms splatter the map by evenings these days, a lucky few receive the rain

Dear reader, I am thrumming with a new exercise and the draft that it produced. And here's the story:

Yesterday, I got the news that I could go to UCA and get my ID, receive my keys, and see my office. Whee. And so, I made the drive that will become my daily commute, roughly 40 minutes each way, with 30 of those minutes spent on the interstate. As I've been planning for this job transition, I've been thinking about podcasts for that commute and recently I subscribed to Transatlantic Poetry on Air. This is an amazing web-based reading series that I first heard about through one of the hosts: the poet Robert Peake. While I haven't managed to log in to any of the "live" readings, I was delighted to learn that the podcasts were now available and supported by iTunes. (Check them out!!)

So, yesterday, I hit the road and then remembered the podcasts (this detail is important). Since I hadn't chosen which episode to listen to before I started driving, I just went with whatever episode my finger hit, given that I was going 65 mph. Lesson learned! Still, this random choice sparked poetry, so no complaints.

I hit on the episode featuring Agi Mishol and Marie Howe. I knew of Howe, of course, but Agi Mishol was new to me. It turns out she is an Israeli poet writing in Hebrew, and she read in Hebrew for the broadcast. Her poems are translated into English, though, and in the "live" broadcast those translations were on the screen. I'm kind of thrilled that I didn't have access to the English. Instead, I let the Hebrew of Agi Mishol's reading wash over me in the car.

And then it happened. I started doing homophonic translations as I caught familiar sounds. (I have often done homophonic translations myself and with students using written texts. For those unfamiliar, a homophonic translation is when you don't try to actually translate a text [from a language you don't know at all...should be completely foreign to you] but instead look for suggested words in your language of origin.) I heard "let me" and "start" and "vault of names," which sent me scrambling for my journal and pen. Another lesson learned: I need to get one of those dash-mounted note pads as I didn't want to stop the podcast to use the voice memo function on my phone. I jotted down some quick lines and then went about the rest of my day (listening to NPR on the return trip as it was time for All Things Considered).

Today, when I got to my desk time, I knew I wanted to go back and re-listen to Agi Mishol with a concentrated focus on using homophonic translation to produce a full poem. And it was a success. Such a success that I plan to do this with my poetry students this fall!  Wahoooza.

So here's the beginning of my draft today. The title is taken and tweaked from something Agi Mishol said in English about "living in a far community" as she tried to describe the small town she lives in.

To Live in a Far Country

Let me start here on this small plot
of red dirt baked hard by drought.  *

The map I clutch marks this spot
The Vault of Forbidden Names, begs me

to dig...

*The red dirt is courtesy of Arkansas. They are expanding I-40 between Little Rock and Conway, so I was bathed in the dust of that red dirt for part of my journey as the scrapers scraped and the dump trucks dumped.

The draft goes on and sort of becomes a local myth/fable/story for a group of people I made up out of thin air and Agi Mishol's beautiful Hebrew sounds. Now I plan to read the translations and listen to the Marie Howe portion of the episode.

Until the next session...


drew said...

That's a great process story, Sandy.

A cool idea, and neat to see how it played out.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Drew. Another great use of the internet. A few years ago, I doubt one could find poetry read in other languages so readily. While this process grew organically, I'll now be looking for more audio of poets writing and reading in languages other than English.