My twice-yearly workshop, the Seven Doctors Project, has started again (it doesn’t seem so long at all since I posted my homework from our last semester), and this week, I and a couple other faculty members are going to talk about revision.
Specifically, we’re going to be telling the stories of poems and stories—because of course, they form and shift and shape-change until, eventually, they tell us they’ve grown up and they want to be left alone and get out of the room and close the door already.
Lately, I’ve started a lot of my poems on paper—the older I get, the more urgency I feel to write things down as soon as they appear. In the past, I’d chew on a line in my head for days, wait until the poem was nearly fully formed before sitting down to bang it out. But lately, I like the mess of writing. The hard black line through the wrong words. The little arrows and insertions. It feels alive—or at least qualms my fear of forgetting what must be written, and that it must written in the first place.
Most of the things I post here are second or third drafts—this blog is a blog of poems in the middle of being written, mostly. The poem posted just before this post, for example, doesn’t look now like what it did when I posted it—and that post was of course different than the poem’s beginning.
If writing is a process of trying to work out a problem, it’s doubly so. There’s working out a problem, and then there’s working out the problem of articulating that process.
I start always with the things that happen, and then, what those things look like—the stuff of them, the little scenes, their rhythm. Revision is about sharpening, cutting. It’s no surprise I like intimacy and violence in the poem—I write with intimacy and violence, too.
I don’t know what story I’m going to tell in class this week. But today, I thought I’d tell the small story of the most recent poem I’ve written—show you how it started (above), and where it went (the post previous), and where, at least for now, it ended up (right here).
In the bathroom cleaning the wound
Later I’ll think of the scene a friend wrote
the chainsaw chewing bone
the waiting for an answer and trajectory of blood
the man who told her none of that was romance
Here let me hold back this flap of skin while you go in for gravel
I came up with a handful of it from the street where we were walking on our walk for tomatoes
held a little blood
and told the origin of dirt’s accord
the bag of earth and air
the molecules that made that fragrance
Your head is so close to mine
when you slip the flat blade sideways into flesh
work out the first black rock