From Savvy Verse & Wit
On Writing in COVID-19 Times and Days of Protest
On Writing in COVID-19 Times and Days of Protest
Rewrite the entire poem. Start by adding lines between each line of the poem.
So if the poem is a ten-line poem, you will be adding another ten lines.
If you are working on a poem that is already really long, you may want to devise a slightly different scheme.
Try not to censor yourself. Add a significant amount of writing.
One way to do this might be to print out the poem, and then hand-write the lines between the lines.
If you are a minimalist, this might feel a little strange—but keep in mind you can always chip away at the poem later!
The poet Peter Gizzi has this term he uses, the “shadow” poem—it is the poem behind the poem. That might be a way to think of this too. Is this two poems or one poem? Which version seems most intriguing to you, and why?
Instant Book/Poem Workshop
I saw a presentation at AWP last year in which the presenter discussed a workshop activity that I’m somewhat basing this on. The presenter’s activity wasn’t quite like this, but it involved using many steps, writing, drawing, and folding the 8-page book. The photographs here show a book written/drawn by Kelly McQuain.
When trying this out with friends, I introduced the idea that the writing would involve writing and drawing and involve writing about place.
Before the first drawing step, we discussed “outside/inside” places we remembered from childhood
The writing/drawing process went roughly like this:
1. Draw an outside/inside place (using half the paper).
(Using nice paper is fun; and providing colored pencils, markers, etc. is good, too)
2. Draw things in boxes (using other half of paper).
3. On a different piece of paper, write. Consider these quotations from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space:
“The tick tock of our watches is so mechanically jerky that we no longer have ears subtle enough to hear the passage of time.”
“From being imagined, calm becomes an emergence of being.”
4. Fold the paper with drawing into an eight-page book.
Here are the best/easiest directions I have found for this folding process–
5. Going back to the drawing, write a poem (thinking about as story is okay too) about how we inhabit and interpret space. Use the drawing, writing, and quotation.
Reading historical fiction is a favorite pastime and it definitely informed the writing of Cardboard Piano, my forthcoming book from Texture Press. As a young girl, I read the book Desiree by Annemarie Selenko. Over the years, I read it several times and became a devotee of Napoleonic history. On my first visit to Paris it was The Dôme des Invalides (containing Napoleon I’s tomb), which was my favorite tourist attraction.
I believe it is the lure of historical fiction that moved me to write of my experiences as a state prison chaplain. The actual experience of spending years inside such an institution changes a person, not simply those who are incarcerated, but those whose daily work transpires there.
It would have been a mistake to make the poems in Cardboard Piano autobiographical since the book is not about me but about the environment and how it shapes one’s perception. As a poet, I take what I know: see, hear, taste, touch and smell, as well as what I think, imagine, dream—and put that all together as narrative, as song, as image.
The remains of the emperor, inside the sarcophagus, are protected by six concentric coffins, built from different materials, including mahogany, ebony, and oak, all one inside the other.
Any environment in which one dwells—dwell is an important word—is layered, one thing nested, if you will, inside another. Writing good poetry yields layer after layer of meaning, as did the writer’s experience when creating.
I have several sets of nested items—matching bowls of different sizes, paper origami boxes, matryoshka. And I have my experiences, especially the years nested beyond four sets of barred gates. What might each human being reveal when taking apart and putting back together the nested experiences of a life?
About Rina Terry:
After leaving a position as Assistant to the Dean of General Studies at a New Jersey state college, Rina Terry attended seminary and became an ordained United Methodist Minister. She has served as pastor of several New Jersey churches and spent many years as Supervisor of Religious Services at a state prison. She holds an MA in English: Creative Writing from Temple University and a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. She has published poetry, short fiction, book reviews, academic articles and frequently writes columns on jazz and literature. She contributed three poems to POEMS FOR THE WRITING and the “Spirit of Names” prompt (in PFTW) was influenced by her work.
Hear “Eleven Times A Loser, he said” from Cardboard Piano, here:
All of my writing these days comes initially from my journals. That’s how I started writing and that’s what I’ve gone back to it seems. A lot of it is awful, therapeutic writing, stuff I need to work through for my own sanity. I’ve heard this is not the way to do it I think, but it’s what I do. I keep it all in the same place but it’s pretty easy to tell what’s what.
So in my journal I write whatever I feel like writing, what is going on in my life and what is on my mind, etc., and every so often I’ll hit a patch that seems more interesting, and I’ll just keep writing that, across the page in the same way but maybe I’ll start putting in some forward slashes to indicate possible line breaks or to say that now I think I’m into a poem. I’ll keep writing along with that until it is out of juice or whatever happens and then maybe there will be a paragraph about something completely mundane, or anything that pops into my head, a complaint about a friend, something I see in the distance, whatever. I kind of just chat.
…I leap around. I don’t try to keep any thread or control it very much. Often I don’t finish a thought or idea before I skip to a different one and a different one again; I just go wherever I feel like although from time to time I’ll flip back and see, oh, what was I on about earlier, and then I’ll continue that, so bits of that idea might be on page three, and more on page five and finished on page ten. Or not….
When I feel like I’ve done enough I’ll look back at the pages and see what’s there. I take my blue (*important detail*) highlighter and mark off the poems that I think are there. There might be two or three possibilities. And then there is a whole lot of trash but I don’t make a judgement as to what’s what yet; I just highlight where I think the poems are and give them a working title, which will be some word in the poem most likely. I don’t think a lot about a title at this point because I don’t know what it’s about so much, I mean it’s just an inkling. If I labor over a title at this point what I come up with is almost always off-base, but if I just pick the most obvious word to remember the poem by, that’s often better and very occasionally that does end up being the final title since I also like simple titles and one word or thing-based titles. So I circle that word.
I might fill up an A4 notebook or two before I go back and see what’s there properly, and then at that point I’ll start pulling out the poems that still seem to have something, and put them in the computer. It’s a different thing that goes into the computer already, with bits of what was in the notebook, changed around, stuff added, a lot of stuff left out, etc. This is really the first draft I guess, when I put them in the computer. I’m pretty ashamed of my journal drafts/pre-drafts. They’re really embarrassing. I threw a lot of them out recently, in case I die suddenly and someone finds them. But now there are a bunch of new journal drafts because I’ve been writing quite a bit lately, and I have to keep them until I put them into the computer, so.
I also revise very extensively. So that the poems wind up a long way away from that initial journal start. For some reason it’s just the way that I like to start though, and that’s what I’m writing about here.
…Sometimes I’ll write and there aren’t any poems. That’s fine. It’s not good for me to try to write poems I think. It just needs to happen. It mostly does (I mean the attempt), because I enjoy putting words in that form.
I take a lot of photographs also, and I use them as prompts for the journal and first computer draft, to the extent that I remember them. When I get to a second draft, then I’ll often study the photo I’m thinking of more, to flesh out what I have or think of new things. But for the initial writing I’ll just go by memory. I probably remember the photo fairly well if it was one I liked, or if it had something interesting in it. If I look at the actual photo again too early I think I can get caught up in the details and don’t get the heart of it. If I write about it first from a strong memory I’ll get the heart of it, and then I can make it stronger by looking at the actual photo. That’s something I do a lot.
Here are a few of the photos I used as prompts in writing [four paths].
There’s a lot of that third photo in the poem “[intersection],” for instance.
Thanks for reading/looking!
Rose Hunter is the author of [four paths] (Texture Press 2012), and to the river (Artistically Declined Press 2010). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as EOAGH, Paper Darts, Doctor T.J Eckleberg Review, DIAGRAM, Bluestem, PANK, and Cordite. She is from Australia originally and now lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She keeps a photo blog here.