9: 37 am, Monday, 10 January, 2011 – Atlanta
Goodday! Is anyone not sitting in snow?
The mantra for today already has some of you rubbing your hands in glee: Yay! She says never throw anything out. I mean what you write. How often have you crumpled up a piece of paper on which you started a poem, but it didn’t pan out? How many of you rip pages out of your notebook and toss them, if the poem isn’t working? And, how many scratch through words and phrases, so that when your brain says later [as it will]: Wait! I had a good line way back that will work here…gone. Unreadable.
You never know when a line, a word, an image, a stanza that did not work initially, will spark something new, or be the perfect thing in something you are working on. Jessie Carty of Referential mentions in an early blog post that she had gone back through her old notes and drafts looking for inspiration. She began to collect lines that she liked and ended up with a great draft for a poem by pulling together lines and phrases that fell together. She says “I have no idea what this monstrosity of a poem is but I put it together from about 10 older poems, meaning, I pulled fragments from old poems to see if I could create something new.”
If you keep notebooks then it’s easy. As I write/revise initially I will put a thin line through words I don’t want to use, but I can still read what I have. If I don’t like what I wrote, I write Ick![important poetic term] but I leave it in place. Every now and then I go back through and look for things that spark. A poem I thought of as weak might have two great lines, or a strong image. Sometimes when I go through and I see words, phrases, images or lines that I like but don’t have anything to use them in, I’ll write them on a sticky note and place the notes together at the back of my notebook. Sometimes pulling them and seeing them out of context makes a difference. Sometimes I will tab places I want to return to.
Then there are the lines that I have written on paper napkins, the backs of receipts, a scrap of paper, an index card…those all go in a box. When looking for inspiration I will sift through and pull things. Think of it as a cento, or patchwork poem, but based on your own stuff [another important poetic term]. I call anything I do of this nature a jodie, after a young man in the creative writing class I took part in, who, when we were all sharing lines of ours that we liked, was quietly writing them down. The found poem he created from the random lines and images was quite splendid. I wish I had a copy, but his actions taught me that everything might have a use. In writing we never know from where or when inspiration will strike.
Think of it as a treasure hunt! Tomorrow, get ready for a structured poem exercise.