Process Recap (and a Prayer for the Poetry Gods)

This has been a good, good writing week. (And yes, it feels even better to acknowledge that.) And I did manage to avoid the temptation of a Deadwood marathon, so I was able to get a lot of work done before my husband came home, and thankfully he did return, on Monday.

So, I followed through on my decision to return to my original plot for the fairytale poem. This is what the process of writing the fairytale has been like so far: (Yay, recap!)

1. Original idea sparked in Fall 2010. First poem written; narrative in nature.

I wondered if maybe that was it -- the end. Then another poem followed about the character, and then another. Soon I had about ten lyric poems written sequentially, or at the very least, begun. Then teaching and festival planning and committee nonsense happened. Writing stopped.

2. Having put to rest the Sow Poems, I turned again to the fairytale at the end of July 2011.

Based on a conversation I'd had with A.P. in the spring, I'd decided to restructure the poem to fit a more traditional narrative form. I tried lots of different stanzas used in ballads, but realized finally I wasn't writing a ballad. I was writing a fairy tale, right? They're different animals. Anyway, the Spenserian stanza is the one I settled on, but I also made the decision to bastardize the hell out of it. No rhyme scheme, except for a slant/near rhyme in the 8th & 9th to end the stanza.

3. I spent two months writing 14 Spenserian stanzas, or 1279 words of metered verse, more or less from scratch, just loosely based on the poems I'd written in 2010.

It was like throwing out all of the work I'd done in 2010. And it felt wrong.

4. Thanks to my November, and by now, recurring-and-well-anticipated-at-the-beginning-of-a-new-month Sabbatical Freakout,I decided to throw out about 10 of the Spenserian stanzas, and really give the first four a major overhaul.

I feel like this is a little dangerous, and perhaps tempting fate. I mean -- I'm halfway through the Sabbatical and I throw out two months of work? Yes, I might be crazy. And stupid. But what's done is done -- for now.

I went back to my first poems, and I redrafted some of them into the Spenserian stanzas. Other poems will remain free verse poems and be interspersed between sections of the primary fairytale. Those other poems will take the shape of a child asking her mother (who is reading the fairytale aloud, of course) questions.

This new plan, using parts of old poems and in some cases the old poems themselves, makes so much more sense to me -- intuitively. I couldn't shake the feeling, when I was writing in September and October and drifting further and further away from the original storyline I'd conceived, that I was making a grave mistake. The tale seemed to become more complex and less interesting the more I wrote -- it was losing its vitality (or what I'd self-appraised as the poem's vitality!).

So at this moment, I'm well into "Chapter Four" of the fairytale - and I can boast 17 Spenserian stanzas, or 1595 words of metered verse - and that's in more or less two weeks. Two weeks. NOT two months.

It's amazing how much easier the writing comes when you finally hit upon the right idea. Also -- it helps to have old drafts of poems you can bully into different shapes.

Of course, my hope now is that the final version or shape of this poem will sound like the best version, and the only version that should exist. I'm gonna hate myself if this thing ends up sounding artificial and forced to other people ('cause I'm probably not gonna have enough objectivity to notice for a long, long while.)


That Erika Meitner article got to me, you know. I think it's a defensive reaction, although I know that my own manuscript doesn't fall squarely into any of her categories. I guess I just don't like being reminded that my ideas -- and most ideas, not just mine -- are really not that original.

Oh well! That's the risk you run when you write and attempt to share that writing with the world. You learn that your place within literature, contemporary or otherwise, is very, very small -- if you even have a place at all.


Please, please, whatever god or gods watch over me, please help me finish this poem by the end of November. And the manuscript by the end of January. And please help me, miraculously, pull a 70 page draft of a stage play out of my ass by January 31 as well.

'Kay? Great. Thanks.




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