Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are any of them are done-done, though?

A day of revision.

"These Are the Trees..." has been chopped into thirds. One third is gone (forever?). The third about birds has become its own poem, "This is the Unkindness of Trees", which I feel is quite successful. And finally, a third remains that is, perhaps the finished(?) and successful(?) poem I've been poking at for a bit now.

Another poem that has seen many many many months of revision has reached a point of... something. Maybe it's done. I don't hate it anymore. It's even got a not-awful title: "Feast". Mr.H needs to read it now, although it was his reading of an earlier incarnation that made me hate it so much and for so long. Something in it was confusing to my reader, but how to write the poem without spelling it all out proved challenging, to say the least. I definitely needed the time it took to stand back from the work, to detatch myself from the language and images I'd fallen in love with.

I was able to speed up that process a bit with "These are the Trees..." and if it's as done as I hope it is, I can be proud of myself. Being able to chop up your own creation is a much needed skill in all writing, and the quicker I can get it done, the better, so hopefully practise makes perfect. Or not hopefully. It would be nice to write more pieces that don't require an axe to finish, actually.

A few more poems have made it to the back burner stage, having seen some tweaking: "Poems Need Winding Up", "The Last Bottle of Red Rooster Merlot", "Our Bed is the Forest In Storm." They'll simmer and then I'll give them another stir and see how they are. Another poem might be done done, "Words to Spring", but it's one I keep going back to; it may be well written but I don't care for it much. A poem about poems, meh.

It's funny how some poems can simmer for great lengths of time and I don't mind, like "Words to Spring", but others, like "Feast" absolutely plague me to no end. I find myself haunted by some poems, unfinished works that claw at me, desperate to resonate. I never wish for them to go away though. I'd be so poetry-lonely without them tugging at my sleeve, my ears, my eyeballs...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh crap, I'm writing a bad poem...

Still tweaking "These are the Trees..." Will it be spectacular? I don't know. It's tackling something fairly abstract, and I'm not sure the narrative would ever be able to carry it, convey this mental picture I have. It sounds pretty though, and the idea is cool...

I still remember the first poem I wrote for a university class. It was about two planets colliding. I know, right? Well, I remember that it had pretty good diction and showed an innate sense of rhythm and flow... But it was about planets. Colliding. After we submitted our work, the professor gave us our first lesson: avoiding the "big", the abstract. And while most of the other students had written poems about love, beauty, betrayal, all of them very "big" concepts, mine too had fallen into the same trap, although at the other end of the spectrum. Planets are kind of big, eh?

So, the biggest trap beginning poets make is to write about the abstract. And even someone who considers themselves well seasoned when it comes to verse is still a beginner if they are spewing out drivel about love and hate and all those wishy washy things, at least in my not so humble opinion. Especially if they use words like "love" and "hate". Poets need to ask themselves "what are these things? What are they?"

A poem is a concrete object. It is words on paper, vibrations in the air. The subject of them should be no different. A poem needs to be about something. An actual thing. Even poems about events, actions, or (god-forbid) emotions, need to have within them the concrete objects that made all that stuff possible. Readers don't exist within a void; writers don't exist within a void; poems should not contain the void.

People connect best with the things they can hold, touch, smell, hear, taste, see, not necessarily the things they feel, like deep down inside. A poem needs concrete things that can give people a sense of touch, smell, taste, sight, sound. These things provide a bridge to the reader. A reader cannot take away from a poem a sense of 'love', but they can take with them the sense of vanilla icecream melting into a warm chocolate brownie. Give the readers something concrete they can keep with them after reading a poem.

That first poem of mine failed because it was about great big planets doing great big things. Things, yes, but things no one has seen, or could see. So will a poem about trees killing birds and marching across the planet crushing rocks fail? Or can enough tools of poetry be employed to save this poem? I'm afraid to ask, but I guess I'm not afraid to try.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rarr! But I just really want it to be done now and wonderful...

Thinking about the progress of this poem, I know it'll be one of those ones I'll have to step back from. My instincts tell me it's not done. When I'm away from it, and run the gist of this piece through my mind, I know it's not all there for the reader, it's not entirely accessible. I like to think that, within my work, no matter how punched up the diction is, or scrambled up the syntax, the underlying meaning, narrative, whatever, is still there for the reader to find and hold onto. It's there, honest! If there's one thing I feel I took away from university, at least the writing program portion of it, it is how far your reader will go in order to understand a poem. I apply this knowledge every chance I get; it was always incredibly frustrating to have a room full of people say they just don't get it. And as a student writer, the first things I had to learn was that sometimes the room is not filled with stupid people. Sometimes, you just lose your reader. Sometimes, you need to pull a thread through the poem that can lead a reader along to the end, or knock out some of the obstacles, or uncoil dizzying chronology.

Or maybe sometimes, if a bunch of trees in a poem go crazy at the end, the stuff that happens in the middle can go ahead and happen, and no one really needs to make sense of it all anyways!

Monday, March 16, 2009

This is going to make me sound crazy, like a tree!

My computer is alive and kicking, protected by free softwares that barely let me do anything: "Wordperfect is trying to connect to the keyboard! Allow?", but I suppose that's what you get when everything is configured to "Paranoid Mode". And yes, that's a real setting.

I am working on a poem inspired by a line that came to me this morning in the shower. "These are the trees going on without us", which has become the title of the piece. It's not done-done though, but so far, the ending seems to involve trees going kinda crazy... I don't know why. Probably just because the language that led to the conclusion sounds really really good.

Some of my best poems come to me in the shower. Something about the quiet, but not too quiet, atmosphere lets my mind wander. So it's probably not a bad thing that sometimes all I want to do is spend my day in there. Also, it's so very nice and warm...

Lines of poems not yet written are scattered in my brain. Maybe the over-abundance of steam (did I forget to turn the fan on again?) lets them knock loose and slide out my ears, or something.

Please invent waterproof paper.

I also can let my mind wander towards the poetic when I go for walks. Lots to see and ponder. The white puff of dandelions in fall inspired a poem that never got written; the sight of a smatter of dead bees littering the sidewalk beneath a tree lead to "The Mortality of Bees"; the moss leading up the drive to the home where the nun lives will, I promise myself, one day flesh out into more than just notes.

There's almost a mode my mind clicks into. And it's a shame but sometimes I just won't let it. I don't have the energy, the time, the paper or pen to let the words flow around like they need to in order to become poetry. The rest of life gets in the way, but it's a strong pull, an almost physical sensation, to the point where I feel as if I need to shake it out of my head when it gets going and I don't want it to.

When I do let it, though, the words sound like they come from somewhere else in my head, somewhere deeper. I sound crazy, but I wonder if that kind of thing would show up in a brain scan?

I've read somewhere that way back when, the egyptians believed the brain was nothing, just a bunch of gunk I guess. They thought that the heart was the seat of the mind and soul. I wonder if they heard their thoughts from their chest. I really do wonder about this. It kinda plagues me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ooooh, let's rant!

I am a very patient person. I can easily put up with my computer's 'ways'. I can sit quitely clicking through multiple error messages when trying to simply close programs, or crtl+alt+dlt all day trying to fire up another. I don't mind. It would simply be nice to have a nice computer. A well-behaved one. Nice.

My computer runs half open. Like... the case has to be half open. The fan. There are issues...

I am a worrier. Bad things can happen. Bad things will happen. To me. And they do. And they did.

I am the person you know whose bank account has been emptied. I am the person you know whose car has been broken into multiple times. Multiple times! I am the person you know who has opened commercial cans of pumpkin to find ick, moldy fungus ick. I am the person you know whose very nice computer, very new, very not cheap, very nice computer lost a hard drive very early on in its life. About then it stopped being nice. Indeed, I am the person whose technologies run fairly half-assed, who carried a debit card that would not access the account that had the money in it, who drove a car with no header pipe/ brakes/ oil/ fully locking doors.

But that's ok.

I am a flip-flopper. I'll admit it. I make one decision only to change my mind. Again and again. But this time, I am wiping my computer for sure.

I changed my mind last time because A) I got lazy (I'll admit that too, I am a lazy lazy person) and B) I worried about the security of my computer.

The security of my computer is no longer an issue. Actually, that's only because it is now the issue. My computer has been compromised. How do I know? Because my World of Warcraft account was compromised. That's right, an MMORPG did something good for once, it raised a red flag for me.

I haven't been playing WoW much, but the BF has, and he turned to me the other night and said "look, you just logged on." Err, but I hadn't... but someone had; someone was using my account. Someone who also locked me out of Account Management and Password Recovery. I was able to change my Registered Email, though, and thus get the process rolling to get my characters back. No harm there, all my items will be returned, and in fact the 'hacker' maxed out my mining skill for me, explored almost all of Borean Tundra, and got me two Wintergraps achievements. So, that's dandy.

But the 'how' is not so dandy. After two days I managed to isolate a keylogger. Did I manage to fully delete it? I don't know. Are there more? I don't know.

Way to suck, Norton.

In my adventures I downloaded AVG, and it opened my eyes to what I find lacking in Norton. Information. While Norton always managed to find 'tracking cookies', AVG found multiple ones, and gave me all their names, and that's nice info to have, and while online, AVG notifies me immediately when it encounters such tracking cookies, rather then waiting for a weekly scan to find it. But it didn't find the keylogger. And while Norton did, it never notified me that it had. "Norton> Options> Internet Security> Transaction Protection> Oh hey, we blocked this keylogger for you, no sweat, don't worry about." Um, don't just block it dummy, delete it! Or at least let me know it's there so I can. And it obviously didn't do a very good job blocking it. Something didn't work as it should have, somewhere.

So the computer is going to be wiped clean. I don't care now, obviously, if I lose Norton. I am willing to invest in something better. Suggestions? And don't suggest an Apple! A new computer won't happen until I go back to school, right now is travel time ;)

I also played a bit these last few days with, very interesting. And I'll definetly be looking into a registry cleanup program after this little bit of 'spring cleaning'. This computer needs more loving. Obviously.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Another process.

My latest poem went out with the last batch of submissions, and had only been finished the day before. I don't usually send out poems quite so fresh, but I feel pretty good about this one.

It began as a very very rough draft of simple language arranged simply on the page in a simple separation of simple ideas. My idea was to explore the unfortunate feeling of preferring to stay indoors, even on a beautiful sunny day, and that sometimes it is just easier to stay inside. The first draft included the notion that this preference may have been ingrained into us from an early stage of evolution. The only spot of brilliance in this early work was the voice of the poem damning "that woman/ and her cave,/ her womb" after having questioned "what ancestor live longer, had more/ children never/ leaving her cave?"

The poem lacked concrete imagery. I decided to work with the image of the cave, and tried to think of what could be in this cave, a metaphor representing an early ancestor. I thought perhaps a flower, out of it's element within the cave, delicate yet sheltered. A google search brought up Gypsum Flowers, and I was fascinated. Not actually a living plant, Gypsum Flowers are rock formations found in caves, with highly organic looking forms, not unlike flowers. Beautiful. Delicate. Somehow wrong, but just right for this poem. And so the image of some form of impossible seed entering the cave and blossoming until "gypsum flowers flow/ across the walls of a cave" was created and begins this poem.

At this point the direction of the diction was set down. Words pertaining to rocks, caves, etc would keep the piece in key, and great language was definitely what this poem needed to get going. Druse, rock, vein, ore, fossils, dendrites, crags, hollows, bore, crusts, slag, core, roots, pebbles. The diction connects the idea of inorganic cave materials, to the organic materials that make up the speaker, yet at the end of the poem the speaker herself is reduced to "the minerals of [her] mass."

The choice of diction both determines and is determined by the sounds within the poem, and the rhythms and movements emerges: "druse/ this brood of rock/ arouses"; "vein of ore that must course"; "fossils/ even. And fingers fumble"; "the crags of hollows, a grotto"; "what woman ached to escape"; "gypsum spirals and satin spars".

Line breaks and enjambment were carefully considered to help control the movement of the language, to help layer meaning, and provide a few kicks and punches when needed: "as if some seed crawled into depths/ dark to brood and be alone", in this example, the enjambment provides "dark" with a double meaning; both the seed and the depths can be thought of as dark, and challenges the reader.

The poem itself is split into roughly three parts. The first introduces the imagery of the cave and rocks, and connects that imagery and the reader with the speaker. The second introduces the idea of the woman as ancestor, seeking refuge in the cave, bearing children in its safety. The final part connects the speaker and her feelings towards this woman, and what that woman's actions have left within the speaker herself: "Damn that woman/ and her cave,/ her womb."

The poem finishes with a concrete image that the reader can take with them. It's perfect. It was a "fuck ya!" moment. Take that Oprah and your "ah-ha" moments :P

At the end, the poem got its title. Agoraphobe. Not even a real word! But as a poet I can ultimately do whatever I want, and besides, you all know what I mean, right?

Bye poems, have a safe trip!

I got all my files cleaned up and organized, ready to back up for the big computer wipe, which now won't be happening for another 320-some-odd days. I don't know what to do with my Norton subscription. I haven't any discs for it and I don't recall if it was one of the programs that came with the computer, and thus one that would remain installed after restoring my computer to the factory settings. And I only just renewed the subscription. I don't want to lose the program, or another 70$ in re-subscribing or re-downloading, so I'll put up with this machine's idiosyncrasies for another year... but at least all those files got organized!

Despite the lack of reformatting, the new printer is installed! And works wonderfully! And so, today's project is a big 39 poem print-off and send-out. I've already arranged all my flashcards, so I know what poems to send where. I need to write cover letters for each batch, save a final submission version of each poem with all kinds of contact info in a special file, update my flashcards, and address lots of envelopes... fun times.

I hate licking envelopes. I buy the kind with the peel off sticker.

Two and a half hours later...
This is how it all began. Poem cards arranged, and organized with Magazine cards. I have to make sure not to send a magazine a poem they've already seen. I also like to send each magazine poems that I feel work well together, a cohesive mix of the good and the gooder, in an order that hooks them with a really great poem and ends with a stronger piece too.

Poems are printed! Each and every page has all my contact info. You never know how organized these magazines are. These papers are so nice and crisp. I love to ruffle my poems.

The cover letters! Each one should mention the magazine's name, so they know you care. A brief bio, oodles of contact info (contact me!), and a list of the poems sent. I also note that they may feel free to recycle all unused portions of my submissions. I love you planet. Double and triple check all the info.

Address the envelopes. Quadruple check the envelopes and their contents. Include self-addressed stamped envelopes; magazines won't spend their own pennies to reply.

Time to go buy stamps!! And then it's 2-12 months of waiting and thumb-twiddling. And I guess writing more poems.