The Writing Blues

Aidan at work on his magnum opus.

My children are ever so much more productively writing than I am. Vincent’s discovering the discoveries and challenges of reading and writing, and Aidan is doggedly working on his own mysterious pages.

I, on the other hand, have written exactly two poems since my mother died. That Salamander will be publishing one of them in their next issue is some consolation, but I’m feeling the pull and tug of the writing bug.

After Aidan was born, I buckled down and wrote a poem a week, and kept at it consistently, for a long time. Not all were worth keeping or working on, but the regularity of effort kept my mind chugging.

But now, sometimes, a lot of times, I just feel stymied. What to say that’s not about my mother and how intensely I miss her? (Which is responsible for the silences here as well.)

I’ve reached that stage where I’m weary of talking about my grief. I miss her. It hurts. Nothing helps, nothing will help, because she’s not coming back. Emotionally I accept that, but I’m just bored with myself.

I’m not unaware of my life’s many blessings, not least of which is a plenitude of love, my dear family, this unexpected gift of a new child in the spring.

I’m also grateful that I live a life saturated in literature: Tupelo Press, the Collected Poets Series, the support and love of poet friends — it’s a financially precarious life, but I love it and am thankful for it.

Which is to say, I love my life. To paraphrase the film, “Super 8,” (which I also loved), bad things happen, but I can go on. I can live, and can live happily.

I guess I’m just trying to find a way to write about this abiding sadness that doesn’t feel maudlin or self-indulgent or tedious. It’s one thing to bore myself; it’s unforgivable to bore others.

Advertisements

Draft of the Week, #16

Considering all my whining about time and the lack of it, you might be wondering how goes the writing? In fits and starts. I’ve managed to write two drafts so far this month, which is a nice return to form, and only one of which caused agony and gnashing of teeth.

Because it was a frustrating week of drafting that poem, a few lines a day. Not for lack of having the words, but the opportunity to work on them. The heat, humidity, general malaise…for whatever reason, my boys would not leave me alone for more than a second at a time. I’d have hid out in the bathroom if that would’ve guaranteed me some time alone. But don’t be silly — for mums of small children, solitary bathroom use is a fantasy.

By the end of that week, I was fairly frothing with pent-up angst. Then the heat snap broke and I stayed up even later than usual (because I habitually sacrifice sleep to reading/writing time — I’m delirious with fatigue even as I type) to hash out this poem. The lines were now written, but I wasn’t happy with their form on the page. Writing it piecemeal, it had come out in tercets, but tercets tend to be my go-to form, so looking at the lines and poem length, I thought I’d break it up even further and try couplets. But that didn’t work — the poem felt too aerated and strung out. Then I noticed that the poem’s turn occurred at the exact center of poem. Exact. Which was interesting for a poem about the centers of things. Which led me to split the poem into two stichic stanzas of equal length. I was so pleased with the result that I’ve already submitted it — a quicker sending-out-into-the-world for this poem, but I’d spent so much time thinking about it, more time even than I spent physically writing it, it felt done — so no draft for you to read this time, I’m afraid.

I have to admit that editors and their stricter submission guidelines have me rethinking my posting of drafts, anyway. I’m considering taking a page from Sandy’s book and, instead of temporarily posting a draft, sharing process notes like this with just a few choice lines. The advantages are that I won’t put a poem out of the running for a journal I harbor aspirations to appear in (how’s that for torturous syntax!), and I won’t have to (remember to) delete the excerpted lines; they can stay forever!

Draft of the Week, #15

If I’m going to participate in NaPoWriMo this year, which is by no means assured, then I may have to stop writing for March and begin working on a game plan. But that’s another post.

Today’s poem used some words from a wordle ReadWritePoem prompt. Only some words. But they were a big help in narrowing my focus, so my thanks to them for another solid challenge.

As usual, this will stay up for a short time only. Any & all comments are welcome.

{poof!}

Draft of the Week, #14: Part III

NEW YORKER illustration from review of WORDS IN AIR.

Writing this last cento using poems by both Lowell and Bishop was the most gratifying of work. Putting their voices, these two poets who were such good friends, in direct dialogue with each other gradually took on more and more significance for me. It feels like a Valentine of sorts.

Thanks again to Carolee and Jill over at ReadWritePoem for the cento education!

This’ll come down in a couple days. Hope your Valentine brings you chocolate.

{poof!}

Draft of the Week, #14: Part II

North & south by Elizabeth BishopI find writing centos a very absorbing process. I’m a crossword puzzle fiend thanks to my former bookstore boss, so drafting centos definitely appeals to that part of my brain. And I can see where working with centos could inspire you and get you started on a poem entirely your own.

But what’s better, centos really focus you on all the smaller moving parts of a poem. It’s like taking apart that engine in shop class to see how it works, and then putting it all back together, only now you’re the engineer and can design a whole new machine.

And working with single-poet centos forces you to engage with his/her poems in a completely unfamiliar and illuminating way. Recurring themes, word choice patterns, images, even something as basic as blocks of syntax — you live within the poems more through your study of them.

I feel particularly conscious of this because of my Lowell/Bishop reading project. As much as I felt they differed when I began is how much I can see now that they share. It’s misleading at first because Lowell wrote so much, and his style and concerns changed much more than Bishop’s over the years. I found writing my Bishop cento initially much more challenging. But patterns have emerged, and I’ve already begun the Lowell/Bishop combined cento. I’m excited to see how that turns out.

For now, below is the Bishop cento; it will remain up until the next, and last, cento is up, probably Friday or Saturday. Many thanks to Carolee and Jill over at ReadWritePoem for coming up with this challenge!

{poof!}

Draft of the Week, #14.

I was lucky enough to spend two whole days with Rhett Iseman Trull, and what fun we had. We talked poetry, literary journals, played with the boys… and Lance made gumbo! Which we wolfed down, starved after our intersecting journeys.

First thing when we stepped out of the car after arriving from the airport, Rhett looked up and spied a bald eagle. Truly!  (We discovered later that he’s a regular—Lance always knows these things—called the “Bridge Eagle” around here, because he hovers around the bridge, fishing in the river. Which he can’t do right now, due to its current frozen state.) Sadly, that was the eagle’s first & only appearance to us—if he’s smart he lit off for better hunting grounds.

Rhett & Meg both read wonderfully; they were a great match-up, full of spark & personality, and we had a packed house. After such a lively poetry party, I had a hard time settling into sleep that night. Hooray for me, I had Rhett again the next day when the wacky weather played havoc with her travel plans. More poetry talk, more playing with the boys—Rhett’s a total wiz with kids, Vincent & Aidan adored her—until it was time to bring her back, however reluctantly, to the airport. I already miss her softly Southern lilt, and look forward to seeing her again sometime, I hope, in the not too distant future.

*

On another note, Carolee and Jill over at ReadWritePoem have named their poetry mini-challenge for the month, and it is “Fall in love with a poet”, cento-style! Check out their post here to read more on this form and what this challenge is all about.

Per the rules, I have altered very little: capitalizations, punctuation (though less than you might imagine), one verb tense, and I added one preposition. Not quite a pure cento, but pretty damn close.

Because I’m in the midst of a Lowell/Bishop kick, and because I can’t seem to follow a prompt without customizing it (sorry!), my plan is this: on day one (today) a cento from Lowell; day two (tomorrow, maybe Thursday), a cento from Bishop; and on the last day (Fri/Sat), a combined Lowell/Bishop cento. As each new poem goes up, the previous one will come down. Comments, both yays and nays, are always welcome.

(As an aside, does anyone know whether it’s okay to submit centos to journals for publication? I ask because the cento, even with due credit given, seems like it inhabits a sketchy magpie area. Any thoughts?)

{poof!}

Draft of the Week, #13

My computer travails continue, but my laptop’s working for the time being, long enough for me to complete a draft inspired by this week’s ReadWritePoem prompt — an evocative photograph. Per my usual tendencies, I’ve taken their nudge in my own direction. This might be altogether too abstract or wordy or [insert negative adjective here], so feel free to speak up with any thoughts yea or nay — I can take it!

And, also as usual, this will only remain for a couple days:

{poof!}