Today’s poetry challenge is to write a "plus" poem, which makes me think of my own writing process. Often, as I work over this constellation series, I take one thing – a constellation - and add something – the myth, the science of that patch of sky. Then I add another element – a construct (sestina, list, epistolary). And another – something earthbound (those rubber ducks that fell off an ocean cargo ship in the nineties, an artist’s workshop, the mean bluejay terrorizing the smaller birds in my backyard). Song lyrics feature in many of these poems. As do a series of repeating elements that I’ve absconded with or made up for the sake of the collection – the cosmic distance ladder, the Universe’s Guide for Deep Space Objects, a conversation between the author and Aratus, and more.
Voice, too, is something added, and though it’s hard to describe one’s own voice when writing, I am confident my voice comes through, the way when I read a poem by Poppycakes, or Jackie Osherow, or even all those dead white guys I love - Robert Frost, Donald Justice, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman, I can hear THEM audibly in my head.
My process of writing a poem I’ve always described as circular. I wind and wend my way up and back, around to the end through the middle, with much editing along the way, so that by the time I finish a first draft, it’s often quite close to what I’d call finished. I don’t edit it any further after I print it. I simply add it to the other poems and move on. I let it sit for a week or two, to steep, and then I’ll tinker with it a bit. If it’s not holding up for me at this point, I send it to the scrap pile, hoping I can use bits of it to spark something new.
So – today, the poem I’m working on is like this: Pavo, the peacock constellation. To which I will add a narrative about space junk (there’s lots of space junk out there, did you know?) and I’ll weave in Pando, the Trembling Giant – the huge aspen tree organism in Fishlake Forest in Southern Utah. At the moment, I have no idea how these three things will come together, how they’ll help me make sense of the universe, give me something to package and send out as poem. It’s glorious stuff, being RIGHT HERE in the writing process.
Tell me how you go about it. Tell me that it’s rowdy and chaotic, that you get lost, so, so lost. Tell me entire worlds spark and burn down in the making of your makings. Tell me how you feel when the reverberation hits, and you know you’ve gotten it right.