I’ve been thinking that I might have a cool idea for a poetry exercise. Obviously a lot of our class time has revolved around looking at each other’s work, and regardless of the extent to which it is finished, I am continuously inspired by all of your poetry in workshop. I often will come across pieces I really love in workshop that I sink my teeth into, start changing things around, leave ideas for ways to expand images, etc. So I was thinking… what if we actually did this to each other’s work? My idea is to exchange drafts with a partner, and with the draft you receive, revise it into a poem totally your own. Change line breaks, punctuation, stanza formatting; add/remove images as much as your heart desires. And then go back, comparing your peer’s poem with the one you reinvented. I’m not sure if any of you guys think this would be interesting, but I’d definitely be down to try it. We all have such different voices as poets that it might be really cool to see what happens when we take a poem written in our own voice and pass it to someone who will give it a completely different voice, and vice versa. Let me know what you think!
I’d love to hear how all of your poetry meet-ups went today! Pam, Diego and I were pretty productive in ours. It was really interesting to do a study of one person’s works in progress and look at their interests, obsessions, struggles, etc. Some of the conclusions we came to about each other’s work included our foci on interpersonal relationships between an “I” and a “you” (Diego and I had that in common about our poems) and who our speakers are (we talked about how Pam mainly uses a female speaker.) I also got the chance to pick Pam’s brain a little more about slam poetry, which I know little about, and I learned about how her creative process changes based on whether she is writing for slam or for this class. In reviewing my work, Pam challenged me to write a poem with a lot of natural imagery or something more scenic, because I usually am tempted to focus on the domestic/household sphere when it comes to creating images. Eventually we got to talking about what kind of music we like to listen to when we write, and whether we’re team Spotify or Pandora.
Enjoy this rare semi-warm weather, everyone!
In looking for things to post about, today I decided to check VerseDaily (which I really should just make a habit of–they always have great pieces.) Today’s poem of the day, which I included below, is called “Human Atlas” by Marianne Boruch (WordPress did not preserve her spacing when I tried to copy/paste the text into this post, so check out the poem at http://versedaily.com/.) Although I am not familiar with her work, after reading this piece I’d definitely like to read more of her.
To start, I love the way she opens with “Because”. I haven’t seen this done before and it’s a great way to launch your reader into the poem (note to self: try this!) Something else that struck me is that she seems to pull off using a lot of body vernacular in the first stanza. It seems like the use of vernacular is something we’ve struggled with as a class–trying to figure out how much is enough/too much–and although we are inundated with words used to describe bones, skin and bodies in general, it never feels like too much. I also love the way the first stanza effectively uses commas to create pause and rhythm, but don’t halt the movement of the stanza. The end of the first stanza is sassy in a way, with the line break followed by white space before the phrase “none of that.”
The first stanza of this piece really set up the rest of the poem for me, and begged for me to keep on reading. As the piece goes on it almost reaches a “thesis” of sorts that can be backed up by the powerfully graphic images of the body. “Complete, because / the whole body ends, remember?” Reading over the piece again, I love that there’s not an immediate sound detail with “complete” and “compute,” but that there are a couple lines in between these two words; it made me feel like I should go back and enjoy the piece again. Finally, ending on the idea of layers also leaves a reader with the conclusion that they should go back through to look at the poem again and what it has to say about bodies/the completion of bodies.
I should start by saying that I definitely am going to try some of the exercises that you’ve all blogged about. For me, the hardest part about a poem is the beginning, because you’ve got to get yourself to think about things like a poet–at least in my case, I don’t walk around thinking like a poet all the time. Putting myself in the poetry mindset is really hard, and not something that you can just instruct yourself to do and you’re suddenly there.
My challenge to you (and also to myself) is to write early in the morning when you first wake up. I was once advised to do this because although everybody goes about their morning differently, we all start out the same: groggy, contemplative, withdrawn, etc. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but my goal for myself is to wake up and before talking to anybody or having any interactions, write a few lines.
For a while now, I’ve been feeling like my writing process gets in the way of the time I actually spend writing. This is becoming problematic to the point at which I’m having a lot of trouble sitting down and writing a poem. I think it’s because I’m so anxious to come up with images right away that excite me and inspire me, when really the ideology of “first thought, worst thought” usually applies. So I’ll write down a bunch of random images (usually just words describing things I see that I find interesting): table, banner, swing, flower–none of which typically lead to me becoming next Rebecca Lindenberg. Then I’ll brainstorm instructions/directions, except not explicit ones, more just the intros to them: “let me,” “go to,” etc. Still not inspired. These usually end up covering the top half of a page, not in any particular organization but across, diagonal, big, small, you name it. Crappy images all over this piece of looseleaf paper. And somehow if I do this for a long enough time–have enough bad ideas, look at enough domestic objects, make enough combinations of two words–I come up with a poem.
I am going to go out on a limb and assume that my method of writing is not your method of writing (it happens with critical analysis papers as well & I end up surrounded with six pages of paper, each with one important sentence on them.) For a senior English major, it’s pretty embarrassing the time it takes me to come up with a poem/paper topic I can expand on, and saying that my process is all over the place & disorganized is an understatement. So I guess what I’m wondering is how do you all start poems? Any advice about delving in somewhere, or finding a topic that you can completely flush out in a technical, imagized poem? I’d love to hear your thoughts.