Monday, March 07, 2011
And Now, Time for Some Poetry...
After being fully immersed for more than a year in drafting, crafting, thrashing, revamping, revising, and fine-tuning Our Difficult Sunlight, in general, I left poems by the wayside. I had initiated four cycles of poems, many of which will be united into book entities once the cycles are complete; however, once there was a contract with a hard deadline looming for the book project, it had to be a priority.
I found that I enjoy the process of writing prose as well. There is a very different experience with prose. For one thing, I do better at prose if I work directly on the keyboard. Poetry needs to first be drafted by hand. It has a delicate nature to me in that early stage. But prose is a streaming that allows me to rely on my nearly 15 years of clerical work and my role as a "document technician." In other words, I can type quickly and my fingers are more able to keep up with my thinking on the keyboard for the prosaic expression, just as it is now...as I blog these thoughts.
Also, I am accustomed to the concise form of a poem as I have held in my view for many years. Having developed the habit of keeping poems to a single page, and particularly to 40 lines or less, since many literary journals ask for that length to fit their magazine size and limits, essays give me a range to investigate and postulate. I am able to develop a thought in a much different manner, which entails more words.
So the poems were stalemated. The words were still flowing...and gushing...and flooding. Then the project was complete, the edits (many, many slash-and-burn trips through the manuscript) accomplished, and the book is now heading into print in its final and, hopefully, blemishless form.
A few weeks ago, I was traveling back home from Chicago and the first launch events for ODS. The book launch itself was heartwarming and it was wonderful to be welcomed into the community of artists, writers, students, and educators that embraces Quraysh and the work he does. The in-service workshop was profound as well, as the very diverse group that attended worked together to meet a common goal of deepening their already rich connection to poetry in ways that will support their own teaching in whatever setting they work.
As I waited for my flight, my pen was demanding attention. I opened my journal for the usual rundown of activities and emotions that fill volume after volume of these little books charting my moods and movement through life. Instead, a voice started narrating a perspective on a tale that was fairly new to me, shared by my mother's cousin at a family gathering this past summer. The voice continued through the waiting, and once we boarded, the voice started up again. My fingers transcribed as quickly as possible for the first part of the flight. Then I needed a nap so I closed the journal for a little while.
There was a brief layover in Philadelphia, when the voice completed her story. I was amazed at how seemlessly it all unfolded.
As soon as I could, which turned out to be a couple of days later due to the insane pace of my life the first quarter of 2011, I typed up that rendering, starting the whittling and tweaking that I love so much. The poem's second draft was two and a half pages! I was shocked.
I worked that poem and returned to a draft from the summer that was buried in the last volume of my journal. Once typed, it was two pages long as well.
Then, prompted by Jennifer Pashley after she read the first of these pieces, I have drafted a third poem, almost four full pages long.
I have clearly broken some barrier within myself. I attribute the new work and the length that these poems are striving towards as the response to all the expository writing I have done over two years. It took that third poem to cause me to examine the trend and draw the correlation.
After a brief moment of celebration that the poems were happening again, I started to panic. Who will publish these? They are so long! I don't know where the market will be for these pieces. What am I going to do with them?!
After indulging myself for a brief span of time, reason resounded, "Just write them, dammit."
I collected myself and developed a level of clarity I have not had in a long time. The important issue is that I am writing, and that I am producing poems. I need to be concerned with these poems first and foremost. Identifying a home in print is entirely secondary to the work at hand, rather than being my motivator. If I am diligent and astute enough, the poems will find homes. Right now, it is the poem that is important, not the repository for it. That will be determined at a later date. I can liken it to the parents who are researching colleges while their children are cutting their first teeth. Revel in the fact that poems are emerging. That is cause for celebration and massive word play of its own accord.