Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I had hopes of organizing my Chestnut Ridge manuscript while I was on Star Island, but that didn't happen. I had almost no unstructured time on Friday and Saturday, and I needed to use the moments I did have to (1) walk aimlessly along the shore and (2) lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling. But on Sunday morning I did snag a few hours, which did not give me enough room to organize anything but did give me a chance to begin thinking about the poems as movable pieces.

So here's my idea: what if, instead of following a straight chronology, I broke these poems into sets? Within each set, the poems could be chronological, but the sets themselves would be thematic. As set titles, I'm (for now) borrowing the traditional elemental categories--earth, air, fire, water--but I hope to transpose those words into something more specific to the actual landscape.

I sat in the grass in the Star Island graveyard, and I began marking each poem air or fire or earth or water or sometimes noted more than one possible category because everyone knows that labels are fluid. It was interesting to begin to imagine the sorts of collisions and patterns that might arise with this organizational shift. It was interesting to see that, yes, a new approach might eventually solve what is a giant problem with the ms as it now exists: it has no overarching dramatic movement; all it does it chronicle the inexorable advance of time. That's important, but it's not sufficient for drama.

Anyway, I didn't get far into this task: birds whistled, people talked, the clouds shifted, I was distracted. But I made a start, and the start felt useful.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

Thank you for writing about your manuscript creation process Dawn, very helpful. Look forward to reading the book at some point, I love the Pennsylvania poems you've shared.