Last night, we had a full table and a number of new faces! Thanks to everyone for coming out!
We talked about both the process of revision and the purpose of poetry. We discussed whether laser beams are an appropriate image to use in a poem and came to the conclusion that there is nothing which doesn’t belong in a poem, nothing which cannot be used.
For our initial exercise, we responded to Julie Doxsee’s poem “Giraffe Tooth and Helmet” (see previous post). I then shared my response to Doxsee’s poem as well as my revisions of that response. I attempted to describe why I revised how I revised, but ended up spending a lot of time talking about how I felt rather than what I thought. There is certainly nothing wrong with using your gut to edit, but said intestinal process becomes very difficult to explain. I think the revisions managed to do a lot of the explaining for me.
For my initial response, I read Doxsee’s poem multiple times and then spent 10-15 minutes writing down what I thought/felt about it (as well as allowing my thoughts to suggest new thoughts (follow the rabbit))(I wrote the original in pen.):
This talk we’re having is as much touch as talk or a tapping. And look, we’ve said the same thing. Here it is now between us. How can we see what’s said? Or how can we not? We are bound to. We are bound to it. We cleave to one another cloven by it. The giraffe’s foot and perhaps also its tooth. I’ve never seen one. But there it is between us binding us together like our touch talk. This being human is a conversation, and something always lies between us. There are always filaments. Strands stretching out from everywhere. There is no not see what’s said. No not constantly brushing the cobwebs from our faces. Cobwebs as electricity. Cobwebs as lasers. Lasers in the jungle somewhere. And not hardly ever the focused light of recognition, but rather a simple clunk. The thing falling between us again. Binding us again. To each other. To everything else. Clunk and it’s closed. Clunk and it’s said. Clunk and it’s an 800 lb. gorilla everyone refuses to acknowledge. Each hair a filament. Each a strand. Pull and it doesn’t unravel. For it was never raveled. Everyone loves Bolero and everyone plays Pachelbel’s Canon in D minor at their god damned wedding.
After letting that text sit for a day or so, I then typed it up, and put it through a first revision. I first decided I wanted my poem to have obviously broken lines (simply because, as someone who usually writes prose, I am intrigued by the process of enjambment and figure I can learn more by doing than reading), so I broke the lines in such a way that (hopefully) each line has a meaning and each relationship between the lines creates more meaning. Second, I pruned away language I felt didn’t serve the purpose of writing a poem in response to Doxsee’s poem:
This talk we’re having is as much
touch as talk or a tapping.
We say the same things but no one sees them.
They then exist between us.
And so maybe we see them because
We are bound to
them. We cleave to one another through
and are cloven by them. Not unlike
the giraffe’s foot.
This being human is a conversation,
and something always lies between us.
There are always filaments.
Strands stretching out from everywhere.
There is no not seeing what’s said.
No not constantly brushing the cobwebs from our faces.
Cobwebs as electricity.
Cobwebs as lasers.
Lasers in the jungle somewhere.
And not hardly ever the focused light of recognition,
but rather a simple clunk.
Clunk and it’s closed.
Clunk and it’s said.
Clunk and it’s an 800 lb. gorilla
everyone refuses to acknowledge.
Each hair a filament.
Each a strand.
Pull and it doesn’t unravel.
For it was never raveled.
I let this text sit for a day or so and then copied it into a notebook by hand. Especially during the process of revision, I feel as though various formats can help me change the way and/or the speed in which I think about my writing. I thought about how each verse paragraph above was attempting to convey a single idea, and I asked myself if/how each line (each word) contributed to the expression of that idea. I continued to ask myself if the writing did, in fact, respond to Doxsee’s poem. Here’s what that part of the revision process looked like:
Despite the fact that I still very much like the final two lines and the way those words echo the “cleave/cloven” pairing above, I couldn’t figure out how to make them fit into where the poem was going. That’s okay, though, they still exist and can perhaps be used elsewhere. After making these edits, I again typed the poem up and made a few more minor changes to come up with what is currently the final version:
This talk we’re having
is as much touch
as talk or a tapping.
We say the same things
because we are bound to
them, cleave to
and are cloven by them.
My friend Andrea says
being human is a conversation.
Filaments always lie between us.
And we are constantly spinning
new webs to brush from our faces.
After talking about my revisions, the group then spent several minutes revising what they had written in the first 15 minutes of the meeting. Some people shared both their original responses as well as their revisions, and everything we heard was fantastic!
Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, 10 May. A story has been submitted to the workshop, so if you plan on attending, please let me know, and I’ll send you the story. I’ll post a reminder to this blog about a week in advance.