My Poetry Process: Part 1

So, I’m working on some new poems, and I thought I would offer a glimpse of what goes into me writing one, from start to finish. As I go, readers should see how the process of writing informs the poem, how the poem is not just some static entity we read in a book or on the internet, but a living, breathing thing with words and ideas of its own. Where we begin and where we finish are, more often than not, entirely different places.

Let’s begin.

The poems I’m currently working on are inspired by the music I listened to growing up: classical music featured in cartoons, the Country music of my mother, the Oldies of my father, and the music I came to love on my own. This poem is inspired by “The Stars Are Projectors” from the Modest Mouse album The Moon & Antarctica. This album was released twice – originally in 2000, when I was in high-school, and remastered in 2004, when I was in college. The original lyrics touch on a number of issues, but largely focus on cycles of experience, and this is something I’d like to explore, especially comparing my own reality at the time of each release of the album. So, I’m going to start with a free-write. The results of which are posted below:

The moon before, on summer nights when the day’s water was on our skin, sweat, blue, like it wasn’t real, and it wasn’t real, it was just a ghost light shining through your sundress, and you were just a shadow in a memory that has only become gilded with time, a fine sand slipping over our history like ice. You can take Greenland.

And the moon again, big in the late winter sky, white like the snow, like the frost creeping along eyelashes, like a surrender, but we were on the ground, watching icebergs calve, like our bond, wet and cold and our feet didn’t move at the same pace anymore, you moved at the speed of angels, and I, I’m still trudging. Antarctica is mine.

As you can see, I’m trying to translate the song into my own experiences and ideas. Right now it’s pretty rough. The scenes need better description. The thematic elements need sectioned off from each other and tied together by a smaller, core set of words and phrases. That means research into projectors, stars, and circles before moving on to the next step: the first revision.

Join me next week, when I’ll show you what comes out of the research and early revision process.

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