My Poetry Process: Part 2

Last week we began a poem based on personal experience and “The Stars Are Projectors” by Modest Mouse. To refresh, here’s what we had:

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.

Over this past week, when I haven’t been busy with work or family or other writing, I’ve been doing research. In fact, some of my other writing has played into this initial revision. I’ve been working on a number of “SOUND”-themed poems for the latest submission call from Synaesthesia Magazine. In one of them, I was considering city structure in comparison to human proportion and was led to thinking about Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

VitruvianManDa Vinci’s sketch shows not only the man, but his dimensions in relation to a circle and a square. We’re going to riffing on this cosmographia del minor mondo. We are also going to be considering some related information about film projectors, the classic 8mm models we used to watch home movies on. I’ve worked with analog tape for audio conversion, so looking up the details on film was interesting. Bell & Howell made a number of popular models, and Kodak made multiple types of film used during this era, though I will be focusing on the popular Super 8 format – the kind now seeing a resurgence in popularity due to the cheap production cost and effectiveness of transfer to digital format via telecine. While that isn’t the entirety of my research, it gives a rough idea of the depth of information I seek, a depth of information I hope will lend itself to making the poem more uniform in its imagery.

After research, I go back and work in the information I’ve learned or rediscovered:

The moon before, on summer nights when the day’s water was on our skin, sweat, blue, like it wasn’t real – the angles and proportions didn’t fit the universe – it wasn’t real, it was just a ghost light shining through your Super 8 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, round like the canisters we came from, white like the snow, like the frost creeping along eyelashes, like a surrender, but we were on the ground, a square and circle, watching icebergs calve, like our bond, wet and cold and our feet weren’t synchronized, you moved at the speed of angels, and I, I’m still trudging. Antarctica is mine.

This initial change is small, some slight modifications of the images, but the flow is still off. In order to fine-tune the language and its rhythm, we need to see the line-breaks. So, the first full revision includes them, below:

The moon before,
on summer nights
when the day’s water was on our skin,
sweat, blue, like it wasn’t real –
the angles and proportions didn’t fit
the universe – it wasn’t real,
it was just a ghost light
shining through your Super 8 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,
round like the canisters we came from,
white like the snow, like the frost
creeping along eyelashes, like a surrender,
but we were on the ground,
a square and circle,
watching icebergs calve,
like our bond, wet and cold
and our feet weren’t synchronized, you
moved at the speed of angels, and I,
I’m still trudging. Antarctica is mine.

Let’s take a look at how my brain works, and break that down a bit to figure out what work is left:

  1. Each stanza has an equal number of lines, which is something I want to keep. The fact that each paragraph of the original was roughly the same length helped this happen.
  2. The lines in each stanza are roughly the same length. I like this and it presents me with a few options. I can now either make them the same length visually (requiring a significant amount of tuning in the language of the piece), or  I can make them the same length syllabically (requiring some tuning, but not at much as the visual method). I think maintaining a syllabic structure here would work on a number of levels – the first being the creation of a more even pace, and the second being that it would represent the fact that each line, like each frame of film, contains an equal part of the story.
  3. There are some strange images here, and I want to carry that throughout – memory does strange things with itself, often making things seem more or less important or magical than they actually were. As I move forward I’ll be looking for words that not only help even out my syllable count, but also carry a sense of strangeness or hold multiple meanings. Ultimately, I would like some of these words to come from ideas of the cosmos along with words and phrases uncovered during my research.

Those three points will be the core of the next revision, which you can expect sometime next week.

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