Today's Draft: Trust, Randomness

What my desk looked like this morning
There are unpacked boxes. There is unfolded laundry. There are barely-made beds. It's someone's 10th birthday. The girl needs an appointment with an allergist. People will want dinner. The State of California will want me to have a driver's license. But this morning I set a timer for two hours and sat down at my desk to write.

I approached this exercise with equal parts joy and fear. Joy to sit down and write after a long dry spell (the last entry in my notebook: April 2). Fear that the well had run dry. And anyone who has read Little House knows you don't want to have to dig a new well.

Gave myself a pep talk: Trust the process, I said. And, Rely on randomness. So I did.

Alas, the Nina Lindsay book is not yet in at my friendly neighborhood independent bookseller, so I pulled some Louise Gluck off the shelf, chose five poems at random to read aloud and to build a word bank from. Word bank in hand, I went to The Working Poet: 75 Writing Exercises and a Poetry Anthology, chose a page at random for a prompt: page 109, The Ekphrastic Poem.

Here is where I cursed under my breath.

Then I got over myself and pulled an art book off the shelf, opened it -- you guessed it -- at random, to page 111: Mountain Slope at Unterach on the Attersea by Gustav Klimt.

Here is where I cursed under my breath again. I mean, couldn't it have been The Kiss? Or at least The Virgin -- that one's on page 110!?

No. Trust the process. Rely on randomness. Okay.

Would you like to take a look at Mountain Slope at Unterach on the Attersea? Here it is, although the linked image shows considerably more blues and yellows than does the reproduction in my art book.

I studied the image and did some freewriting to capture the feelings it evoked for me, the sense I had of different elements of the painting, the look and texture of the brush strokes, etc. As I looked at the print, the trees on the mountainside began to look like a wall of faces to me; I thought I might try to get that into the poem. Then I went back to the wordbank and, at random, chose six words to use in a draft: starve, pay, mountain (coincidence? I think not.), offer, wind, earth.

In case you're wondering, yes, I did curse under my breath for the third time.

Trusting the process, relying on randomness, I went to my notebook. I tried for a poem that would feel dense, with small but bold "brushstrokes" to echo the painting. The resulting draft is "Lesson From Unterach" (not crazy about that title); here's a snippet:

[Insert 8 hour interlude here during which I picked Sister up from school, ran home to meet the boys walking home from their school, fixed a snack, put everyone in the car to go back to Sister's school for a meeting, came back home to oversee homework, directed the process of children finding library books (curse, curse, curse), did a load of wash, started dinner, fed people, bathed two children, read two stories, told the 10 year old to go put his bike away (curse!), kissed said 10 year old goodnight and sent him upstairs..... yes, I'm still the Mom Trying to Write!]

Ahem. Back to my post and the snippet:

"Here, you are starved for horizon,
for sky. All you know is slope:
mute faces crushed together
in green to make mountain."

Well........ it's a start. And it was good to learn again that trusting the process and relying on that-which-one-might-not-have-pursued-on-one's-own, and on randomness, can bring poems up to the surface.

And now, this mom trying to write is going to bed!


CitricSugar said...

May your snippet grow whole and bear much fruit!

Happy birthday to your 10-year-old - Virgos are truly wonderful people. :-)

drew said...

Love that first line!

Hooray for random starts.