Today's Draft: Getting To Ketchup

My drafting day didn't start out so great today.  The Inner Critic was up early this morning, and started right in.  Mama's to do list was running through my mind.  And it's cold and snowy and, well, January.  I've learned over the years that if I take the time to write out the unhelpful, creativity squelching voices/lists/months of the year and their snowbanks, they usually go away and leave me alone.  I spent a while writing them out, then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

And now, as I sit down to write these process notes, I'm laughing in the way I laugh at my kids when they do something crazy, funny, and a little exasperating.  It's the kind of laugh after which you shake your head a little, say "Really?", try to jar yourself back into a sane world, if there is such a thing.  Today when I sat down to draft, I ended up with a poem containing the lines:

It's meatloaf again, juicy and leaning
slant against the mashed potatoes,

awake to the possibility of ketchup,
its glowing lycopene, its sweet-n-




I don't know how it happens.

Actually, I do.  It happens when you sit down to write, when you silence the Inner Critic (which reminds me, I'm thinking of naming mine "Spiteful Gillian" after a character in a children's book.  But I digress.), when you let yourself play.

Today I let myself play by pulling out the oldie-but-goodie Gaping Lines exercise:  take a poem by another poet, type it up with big spaces between the lines.  I used a poem by Mary Rose O'Reilley called "The Distaff"; a distaff is a stick or spindle on which wool or flax is wound for spinning, and also refers to that which concerns women, such as the distaff (maternal) side of a genealogy chart (info from OED).  In the big spaces between the other poet's lines, and spurred by the lines you're working within, write your own lines.  Then pull out the other poet's lines, and repeat the process using your own lines.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat until you have what feels like a draft.  Just for fun, I also pulled out an old word bank, this one from poet Beth Ann Fennelly's work, and used one word per line in each go round through the gaping lines.

My draft is titled "The Fall of Woman" and it's about Woman's fall from heaven/divinity into households (here I pause to remember a line from an Emily Dickinson letter, "God keep me from what they call households!"), and the power that gives her.

As usual, this is just a fledgling draft and not one of those that I feel absolutely sure will become a poem, but one that feels like it could.  Either way, I'm satisfied that I somehow got somewhere completely unexpected: to ketchup.  That has to count for something.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Great title for today's post. Thanks for sharing this great prompt as well. I've never done it before and will try it ASAP.

drew said...

I agree. Great prompt idea. Thanks Molly.

Molly said...

Sandy & Drew, hope you have fun with Gaping Lines. I wish I could remember where/from whom I first learned this exercise so I could give credit.

In a bit of synchronicity, however, the Poets & Writers "The Time is Now" prompt for this week was very similar, and reminded me of Gaping Lines.

drew said...

I don't know about the Poets & Writers weekly prompt. Have you a link?


Molly said...

Drew, here is the link to sign up for P&Ws weekly prompt. Check the box for "The Time is Now E-Newsletter."


Gerry said...

Gaping Lines is an interesting exercise. It reminded me of "junk DNA" -- an [outmoded] concept having to do with the parts of DNA that appeared to be irrelevant to the functioning of the organism. It turns out that quite a few of these bits have significant roles.

A very smart molecular geneticist of my acquaintance--OK, my sister, but don't hold that against her--thought that investigating "junk DNA" was pretty interesting. Perhaps this was the natural contrariness of our family genome. I digress.

Anyway, "looking where there wasn't anything" turned out to be productive for her, too. She, er, found things. I am out of my depth, scientifically speaking, but somehow "junk DNA" has become a useful metaphor for me. Let's not tell my sister. I'm fairly sure she would roll her eyes.

I thought of it again when I read Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna." She wouldn't roll her eyes.

Molly said...

Gerry, you have the best stories! I love the junk DNA connection to Gaping Lines. In fact, if I'm ever lucky enough to be a teacher of poetry, I think I'll re-name this exercise Junk DNA -- begged borrowed and stolen from unknown sources/P&W/Gerry/Gerry's molecular geneticist sister. "Looking where there isn't anything" -- exactly right. I promise I won't tell your sister. I agree Ms. Kingsolver would be on board.