Steady As She Goes

20 little poetry projects
"Keep the ship heading steadily on the same course regardless of gusts of winds or cross-currents."

Roger that.

It has been one of those months, Reader. I mean, here it is almost Thanksgiving and I feel like I'm still recovering from Halloween. I'm trying to remember the last time the children had a full week of school scheduled. I believe it was a month ago, or perhaps five weeks. It has been two weeks since my last, heavenly morning in the quiet room of the library. There has been fever, rash, sore throat, all the usual suspects. It's never easy when the gusts and cross-currents of family life threaten to push the poetry ship off course. Also, it's not a poetry ship. It's a poetry row boat. Know what I mean?

But, rather than despair or give up (well, okay, I've despaired a little bit), I have kept at my morning practice of reading and writing at least a little bit every day. And I've stumbled on a way to keep drafting even in high seas.

I have this book to thank. On page 119 is an exercise by Jim Simmerman called "Twenty Little Poetry Projects." The exercise involves writing one line for each of 20 brief prompts. Some examples: #1 Begin with a metaphor; #2 say something specific but utterly preposterous; #6 contradict something you've already said; #14 refer to yourself by nickname and in the third-person; #15 write in the future tense so that part of the poem seems like prediction. The exercise is, I believe, meant to be completed in one sitting, but I've decided to split it up. The Mail Order Bride recently announced another title to me: "The Mail Order Bride Answers His Ad." Working under this title, I placed one post-it note per "project" from the exercise in my notebook. I've decided to write one or two lines a day for as long as it takes to fill all the post-it notes with at least two options for lines. Then I'll choose the lines I like best to draft a poem from.

Here are some of the fragments filling the post-its (not in any order):

My hand blooms, astonished. 

She is the bell-ringer. 

Be given, wick to flame. 

I will unbraid my roots from poor, remnant soil.

We'll see where it goes, if anywhere. In the meantime, I am very glad to have a way to keep the rowboat on course while stirring cranberries with one hand, and holding small foreheads to my cheek to check for fever with the other.

I thought this was worth sharing just in case there might be something in your life you could do in twenty little projects, bit by bit, day by day, regardless of headwinds and cross-currents. Steady as she goes.

(Source for definition of the phrase is here).


Sandy Longhorn said...

Wonderful. I will be interested to hear how the poem comes together from this breaking up the draft process. All that focus on each line and then weaving them together. Intriguing!

Hope health returns to your house ASAP!

Molly said...

Sandy, I'll definitely post updates on this process. I'm curious to see where it goes, too. Thanks for the good wishes and for reading.

CitricSugar said...

Neat exercise.

drew said...

You've got some killer lines! And I really appreciate the way you manage to squeeze writing, and poem-making, into any moment.

Molly said...

Thanks CitricSugar and Drew -- it has been fun to watch this unfold. I'll definitely do it again!