Drafting in Forms

Shhhhhhh, Reader.  I have just snuck away from family NFL viewing to write this post.  I don't watch a lot of sports but sometimes the kids like me to join in and make it a family affair.  I am mostly there to ask innocent questions:  "What's DPI?" (defensive pass interference.  Why can't they just say 'interference?'  I know what that is).  And to track the character development of the NFL robot guy.  And to offer color commentary, like:  "Someone should tell Howie Long the 80s are over and he's free to get a new hairstyle now."  I'm just sayin'.

But the reason I'm here is to tell you about my day of quiet drafting, of drafting in forms.  I've written before about working my way through Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Poem: A Guide to Writing Poetry, by Wendy Bishop.  This week, I looked at aubades and haiku.

Traditional aubades -- the word means "dawn song" -- are poems that capture the moment of parting between lovers.  Contemporary poets have expanded the form so that an aubade can be a poem about "after" almost anything, although some type of shared intimacy is common.  Bishop says the aubade is "a celebration of what no longer is or can be, an attempt to reconcile the heart with changes of heart."

I wasn't too excited about trying an aubade.  I don't like writing about my love life.  It just feels private.  And I'm not even close to brave enough to write an aubade about after Arizona.  But I put on my Eager Pupil hat, pulled out a word bank, and tried the form.  Once again the word bank got me places I wouldn't have otherwise gone by suggesting metal words (sharp, weapon, plow).  My aubade captures the moment of parting between husband and wife as he goes out the door to work, and she hands him a cup of coffee (I'm sure Husband wishes I would prepare him a parting cup of coffee in real life, and not just in a poem).  Enter snow plow, enter shovel, enter mining imagery, enter volta back to husband and wife and married life.  Rather than examine the changes of heart Bishop discussed, my aubade looks more to the same old same old.  My goal was to keep it to ten lines, but it went fifteen.  I can live with that for now.

Next, onto haiku.  Yes, this is the one you all learned in grade school:  three lines, syllable counts of 5, 7, 5 (although lines with syllable counts are not strict requirements of haiku).  In Bishop I read that a haiku:  1. seeks to capture a moment of perception, 2. turns on strong natural images and intense emotions, and 3. often leads to spiritual insight.

I'll often try turning a rule on its head to get to a poem, so I decided not to try for natural images, but rather for domestic images.  I ended up with two poems: one whose central image is my writing desk, which was originally my Papa's desk (my dad's dad); and one whose central image is my mom's rosary.

Both forms, and the resulting drafts, felt quiet to me.  Today's drafting wasn't exhilarating as last week's when words and lines came fast and furious and went wild and crazy places.  Sometimes I think I have a bias in favor of the exhilarating, wild/crazy drafts.  But I know as a reader I appreciate quiet moments within a collection of poems, so I have faith in today's quiet drafts, too.  And I'm sure I never would have written these particular drafts if I hadn't determined in advance to work in forms today.

To the aubade and the haiku I say, thank you for being you.  Quiet seems just right this week.

(And speaking of quiet, the children are nestled all snug in their beds now.  Goodnight!)


Gerry said...

Thomas Lynch would love the way you work. I absolutely do not have the self-discipline to write in forms and . . . well, let's just say I don't do poetry and leave it at that. But I'm glad that you--and Thomas Lynch--do.

I went looking for a link for you, one to a story I heard on NPR, and now I have three tabs open about Haiku Economics and I haven't even had my second cup of coffee yet. This can't be good.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the process notes, Molly, and congrats on the two new poems, quiet as they are.

Molly said...

Gerry, I knew when I first saw Thomas Lynch's "Refusing at 52 to Write Sonnets" (which has one more line than a sonnet) that I'd like the man. Yes, best to be well-caffeinated before one goes searching for links.

Thanks, Sandy -- I'll take quiet drafts over no drafts any day!

Pepe said...

You've inspired me to try a couple of haikus, just for old time's sake!

Molly said...

Pepe, draft away! and I can't help but notice the timestamp on your comment. Wonder if drafting haikus is a good remedy for insomnia?