Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Snow snow snow, and we are going nowhere fast. It's actually quite lovely. Last night, insomnia released its hold over me, and I slept from 11 to 7 without waking up even once. And now here I sit, while the boys loll in their blankets and the snow falls and falls. Tomorrow we'll drive to Vermont; today we'll sit beside the fire and drink coffee and, eventually, discuss the thorny issue of college applications. But for the moment, the washing machine is doing all the work.

I want to thank you for the comments you sent me about the poem draft I posted a few days ago. They were helpful, but they also uniformly agreed with what I had already guessed would probably need to happen, which is both reassuring and, paradoxically, why I rarely ask anyone anything about work in progress. I've never belonged to a writers' group, and I don't go to workshops anymore because they so often become competitions, excoriations, back patting, praise parties, or hand holding, none of which I want. During the two years I worked with Baron Wormser as a private student, I relied heavily on his suggestions; but one of the wonders of Baron's teaching is his ability to wean his students from dependency on advice. He taught me, as much anything, how to use my own resources to become my own teacher.

This isn't to say that my poems can't benefit from an outside eye, but, after all, the work must come from me, from beginning to end. Regarding the draft you saw, there are elements I don't care to excise but that require excision. Probably those excisions will lead to additions. The piece will change, perhaps radically. What I like best about the draft is, I think, the tone; and I believe that undertaking a faux-translation allowed me to ride the fluidity of that voice as I composed the narrative. Probably the Italian has done its work. I should imagine it as a bread casing, the sort that one makes to envelope a ham for baking but that is not intended to be eaten. Why does all the food need to go into the same mouths? It's not a waste to feed the scraps to the hens.

1 comment:

Carol Willette Bachofner said...

I do go to workshops, mostly for the camaraderie
of writers. I conduct workshops too and enjoy awakening others to what I know and what I consider and what I question.

I agree about working with a mentor. Mine was (is?) BH Fairchild who told me a couple amazing "truths" about poetry and the work of it:

1. you learn your craft by reading others' work and studying HOW they make meaning and why they are inspired by the words they consider.

2. at some point you have to rely upon your relationship with the embodiment in poetry and let it carry you.

I often hear his voice in my head when I am puzzling over a new poem, or when I am revising and dressing the body of the poem I've written. It is a comfort to be let loose to a poem and its components, to let it transport me, change me, make me sweat.