Dismantling: A Response to reverie #4

02 Feb

Hello again. You’ll see a lot of me, between today and tomorrow, but I have a response to Joseph Harker’s Reverie #4, which you can find on naming constellations — the prompt, not my response. Joseph asks us to approach the writing of a poem with a specific strategy: to go from seed, to trunk, to branches.

It makes sense to me to show you part of the process, rather than the end result and a ‘how I did this,’ as I usually do.

Branch:    she gropes in the dark

Trunk:        images form and fade, names dissolve

Seed words:     blurred sight and brittle bones slow her down

Trunk:        she sits, eyes unfocused, brain scurrying

Branch:    life dismantling

I wrote one or two drafts, which I will not take you through, and then the draft where I am now. In the earlier drafts I narrowed the poem’s focus down to one aspect of aging, the gradually shifting memory. After the central portion above, I wrote the stanza which follows and then the stanza which comes first. Then I separated out the single lines.

pulled for revision

I like where this is going. I am working on a series of poems on my mother, so will appreciate any comments and suggestions. If something doesn’t work for you, let me know. If you think of a word, or anything really, please say. I won’t post a changed draft because of the whole submission thing, but will appreciate any input. Do I need to make her more obviously an older person?

Did you notice that my original seeds aren’t in the draft?

Be sure to visit naming constellationsReverie to read the other responses.

If you are wandering through my blog late in the day, go back a few hours and catch the interview with James Brush.

See you tomorrow, everyone.


Posted by on 02/02/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , ,

19 responses to “Dismantling: A Response to reverie #4

  1. The Happy Amateur

    02/02/2012 at 5:19 pm

    I liked this a lot, Margo. I did picture an elderly woman as I was reading. And I was trying to remember with her, and hoping she’d finally guess right. Liked that the poem ended with ‘smiles.’

    • margo roby

      02/02/2012 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks, Sasha. I was in the room watching when this happened, although I added bits to make the poem work.

  2. whimsygizmo

    02/02/2012 at 5:32 pm

    I like this very much, margo. love seeing your process. especially love “She tries Carlos, but it doesn’t taste right/coming off her tongue.”

    • margo roby

      02/02/2012 at 5:38 pm

      Thank you, whimsy g! I figure this is a perfect venue for us to discuss process a little more [this being Joseph’s Reverie exercises]. And that line is probably my favourite.

  3. b_y

    02/02/2012 at 5:40 pm

    I am with her every moment through the anxiety and into that grace at the end. No overt drama, just a second of panic. Again, wow.

    Please, don’t make her more obviously old. (If “young man” isn’t enough, the camellias nail it.)
    Allowing her to be less specific gives more room for identification, as the woman, or as a caregiver.
    And, you don’t have to be aged to pass through something like that terrible inability to reach a name or a word that ought to come easily. It can be transient, she said from experience.

    I love taste for the sense of name.

    • margo roby

      02/02/2012 at 5:47 pm

      Two wows, Barb. I am undone.

      And, I won’t. I rather thought the young man would do it. I laughed when you said the camellias do too.

      I was in my early thirties when I turned to my best friend to introduce her and went completely blank. Not even a taste. It was hard watching mom this summer. It’s the first sign she has shown of that frailty, which, given she is 83, isn’t bad. And she is as game as they come.


      • whimsygizmo

        02/02/2012 at 8:21 pm

        I can’t tell you how many times I have said (in reference to a name, movie title, describing word, or random phrase I was just dying to repeat only seconds before): “My tongue has it. It’s right here. I can taste it. Wait…” For the record, I am 42. And showing no other signs of dementia. Yet.

  4. wordsandthoughtspjs

    02/02/2012 at 9:57 pm

    Margo, I love the last four lines of this, from the name not tasting right to the smile. I love what you have done with this prompt. It does give one the sense of aging.

    btw I am just finishing mine up, but am having difficulty closing the poem. Maybe I could send it your way tomorrow? 🙂

    • margo roby

      03/02/2012 at 7:14 am

      Pamela, I am just reading this. Send away! And thank you for your comments about mine 🙂


  5. Annette

    02/02/2012 at 10:38 pm

    She is already obviously and vividly old. This is excellent — her frustration is palpable.

    • margo roby

      03/02/2012 at 7:15 am

      Thank you Annette. I may ask all of you to look at all my mom poems! I have a difficult time distancing myself.

  6. markwindham

    03/02/2012 at 1:21 pm

    Feeling somewhat under qualified to critique another’s…especially yours, but some random thoughts:

    -would the eyes be unfocused, while the brain scurries? Or searching? Panicked?
    -‘in the darkness’, ‘in the dark” – intentional repetition? You’ve said you like repetition.
    -‘knowing she….make an effort.’ a separate stanza?
    -‘thanks him for moving the camellias’ ??
    -‘and’ in the last sentence necessary. Personal issue, hate ‘and’.

    A good piece; you feel exactly what she is going for and feel for her.


    • margo roby

      03/02/2012 at 2:13 pm

      In many ways, Mark, we are all underqualified for another’s poetry. You never know when an idea or suggestion, you have will spark something in me, yes?

    • margo roby

      03/02/2012 at 2:14 pm

      Wow… the reply entered itself before I was done. I am heading to my notebook now to try your suggestions. I really do love this part, where I try different things to see how they work. Thank you.


    • margo roby

      03/02/2012 at 2:19 pm

      The ‘and’ is gone. You are right.

      Salvador? Salvador, she said. He smiled.


  7. Joseph Harker

    03/02/2012 at 1:48 pm

    The taste of names has already been mentioned, but I’m going to throw my vote in for that as well as an excellent choice. And the details of the armchair and camellias add to her portrait. I like that despite the heavy subject, you gave it a happy ending; it could have easily been the complete opposite.

    • margo roby

      03/02/2012 at 2:22 pm

      Thank you, Joseph. As I watch my mother dismantling, I shall probably try for the happy ending for as long as I can. We have good genes, but I spend a lot of time with her, so I will notice everything.

      Thank you for this approach. I have a couple of ideas that have been on back burners that I shall now bring forward and try the tree with them.

  8. Annette

    09/02/2012 at 11:45 pm

    I finally posted my poem — which combines this reverie form (which was HARD for me) and a more recent wordle.

    • margo roby

      10/02/2012 at 10:18 am

      Annette, I promise, Reverie #4 was hard for most people, but I adapted the exercise to my style and I like the way it worked [used what worked for me, ignored what didn’t]. I think I will try it when I have a line, or an idea, I’m not sure about. This gives us a structure to build on.


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