Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I've been thinking about "Mrs. Dickinson Waits in the Car," the poem I posted yesterday. It's an overwrought piece, as you can see--tonally controlled by the hepped-up verbs and adjectives but also by the rhyme scheme, which plays into the melodramatic hands of those grasping parts of speech. (Ah, mixed metaphors; what would we do without them?). In my own writing, I find that sound almost always controls word choice, which in turn almost always controls imagery. That is, I do not create the picture first and then dig around for words to describe it. Rather, I hear a syllable rhythm and then find a word that fits it, which in turn leads me to imagine what else would go with that word sonically and visually. Because I am primarily a narrative poet, I sometimes wonder if this is an odd approach to writing; but then again, most of the time I'm convinced that Dickens must have invented Sam Weller and Mr. Micawber in just the same way.

The other day, after my reading in Shelburne Falls, poet Peggy O'Brien commented kindly about the way I move from voice to voice in my poems. I was so pleased: I hate it when people mistake all my I characters for me. Even the ones that are kind-of-sort-of about myself are dramatized versions of an exaggerated me. Poems, as I'm always complaining to you, are not journal entries but entities unto themselves--canvases, musical scores, notations for a one-woman show, tiny landscapes that I pepper with mudholes and dandelions, miniature governments that I overthrow . . . often ineptly, to be sure, but sometimes everything does work out for my subjects, at least temporarily.

No comments: