Monday, September 3, 2012
common roots + new projects
Opal, Meryl and I stopped by Common Roots recently for coffee (or tea or organic milk or potato soup) and poetry: we shared projects we were working on, discussed the ventures of sending out the full-length manuscript, now that all three of us share that effort, and we spent some time on individual poems we had written and needed readers to help us along. Meryl has a long poem on the tattooed lady that has some wonderful magical realism moments, including a woman in a bathtub who eats a fish whole as it swims by and another woman who ballet dances her way into the patterned carpet. Opal read a poem she wrote that week from her notebook, one that was a kind of litany, as she is interested in exploring the ways in which song and lyric and poetry intersect. This poem invoked the great images of a woman at a lake, of a fierce, sultry woman, of heavy, damp air, of a private moment in what feels like a private park in the midst of a very public city. Mine were actually two poems, each taking a look at experiences my family had after moving to Wisconsin in 1992, when there were murders and abductions and bullying and playing in neighborhood streets and sorrow and survivals of all sorts--the longer poem was tangled in many of these events and another, brief, poem just took a look at the intense cruelty inflicted upon my sister when she had a "boyfriend" (as much as a third grader can have a boyfriend) that another girl in her clique liked. But after a good discussion with those girls, I've decided to stretch the poem like taffy, tease out what some of these images mean--the smudge of burgundy, the imagined contents of the abducted girl's purse, the violence against men and women, individually and in groups and domestically and in public, and so many things that need care. Right now, the poem is sequenced in about eight sections, each having its own page, each fairly brief, restrained, meaning to lengthen the pages rather than the sections, giving that reader some space for the breath, to take in the intensity and carry it into the next section.
It's not the only project that has kept me busy recently--aside from the new issue of Midway, and the most recent interview on Balancing the Tide--I continue to send out individual poems (six poems have been taken by two journals recently that I'll share soon), to send out the full-length manuscript, and this past week, I put together a chapbook.
Maya and I were watching a PBS special called The Bears of the Last Frontier: Part 1: City of Bears. And I fell in love with that name, City of Bears, and now it is the name of a chapbook I've only submitted to one press thus far. It is full of poetry about women in relation to the natural world. I love nature as metaphor, and even more, as a place reflective of those experiences and behaviors that are so startling and so momentous and the ways in which they intersect. There's a poem called "Offal," which will appear in Trivia: New Voices of Feminism, and it's about a conversation my husband and I had (or didn't have, or danced around) about when to start trying for children, and there's this dessicated deer carcass in the winter woods, its liver fat and perfect and surrounded by enormous crow tracks and there's all this anxiety and hope.
Tomorrow also marks the first day back at school for the high schools where I've taught and the college where I attended (and taught), and I see all the social media updates about readying the classroom, or getting those last nerves out before bringing in the fresh notebooks to class. I miss the university. (And tonight, in a daily poem project I'm working on, just to keep myself moving and prevent another hibernation, the poem was about the monotony of staying at home. Pregnancy bladder control and overripe diapers may have been alluded to.) So I've created a rough syllabus of study for the months of September through December, which will be dedicated to the "I" in poetry--otherwise, and sometimes disparagingly so, known as confessional poetry. I'm starting with The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets. And I'm making a binder, which will include writing exercises and essays from other sources and would be a perfect resource if I were teaching, but I'm not; I'm just being a desperate stay-at-home mom-nerd.