Wednesday, May 30, 2007

But seriously,

I've been working on my Camargue series—slowly—and I was thinking the other day about process: how different this process is from that of the last series of poems that I wrote.

In the first series, I wanted some of the themes and images to weave throughout the series. I started with a bunch of free writes and then moved lines and groups of lines around until I felt like I had sections that could be poems.

The Camargue series, and the process of writing it, is much more narrative—even if it isn't literally linear. I'm starting the poems one at a time and working on them as individuals—and I'm finding that it's much easier to get stuck.

(What do I write about now? Where is this series, this story, going?)

How do you work on a series of poems? What is your process? How does it change?

1 comment:

Judith Skillman said...

Poems in a series: an interesting topic. How to pursue an idea or a theme without letting that very idea and/or theme sabotage the "muse," the process of writing, whether it be associative, narrative, or formal? This is a tough question and there are no easy answers.

OK, but to attempt an answer, perhaps the writer has to remain open to change, just as when one is writing a thesis statement that "statement" begins as a question (hypothesis) and at some point during the research/gathering stage the question gets answered. That, at least for me, is when the essay writing process becomes exciting and it could apply to poetry writing as well.

So I think the excitement generated by all the gathering of images and making connections between them--even to the point of extended metaphors and repetition of characters, as I've noticed in some of Joannie's recent poems in her new musician series--the excitement is what drives the writing into new arenas.

I've had an idea for a series--writing poems about animals who are either endangered or extinct. I found that this idea is mostly dead in the water due to the media attention extinction has received and from some feedback I've gotten, people are just so sick of it. It's as if we as a culture don't want it in our faces anymore than it already is. How to fight that? You can't, as a writer.

So I didn't outright decide to become oblique in perhaps writing the only poem that has any chance of surviving (har har, pun intended) in this series that is now abandoned. I just wandered off a bit into a different place, one that didn't have any pat answers. And I came up with a poem I feel satisfied with, possibly because it found a home, but even before that, because it seemed to fly in the face of extinction--the poem rather thumbed its nose at any notion of our pat ideas regarding extinct animals. It became a poem about the end of the world (I know Joannie has amazing poem(s) about this subject in her full-length manuscript.)

I'll end my verbose comment with just the title of that poem, the only poem from a doomed sequence: "From the Grasslands." I am not sure at what point this poem was written in relation to the others...ah, but I digress, and I must end here. Suffice it to say that that poem IS NOT the name of any particular animal.

And the series has been reduced to one poem.

And, as a post mortem to my long comment I would add that regardless of the difficulties inherent in generating material, poets must perservere with the much same attitude as mathematicians--by taking for granted the assumption that there is an answer, however esoteric and quixotic it may be, and that the solution to our problem of writing a sequence or series does exist in the universe and will emerge when we find the right language to discuss it.