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Here is another series of exchanges between A and men as we hash out the second and third steps of this particular poem-writing process, which she is still hard at work on, i.e. writing and rewriting the answers to the questions in approximately six sentences.
A M wrote:
Ok, here goes two first drafts I attempted. I am putting the poem aside for today and will relook at it tomorrow. What do you think works? What doesn't? Be honest. I know this needs a structure but I don't think the poem is ready to be fitted into the right structure and I have no clue on which type of structure to manipulate it into. I tried to think in images and active verbs but I fear I got tired and wasn't colorful enough on the verbs. Do you have some examples of colorful verbs you could share with me?
Rough Rough Draft
Working Title: Remains of a Friendship Scarred
1. The Shins sing our favorite song "kissing the lipless" with the line 'the grey remains of a friendship scarred.'
2. You knock on my door ready to play wearing your patchwork jean skirt, busted together on a chickenwire bodice, fishnets, pink high top sneakers, denim jacket, and blue cabled hat you tell me your psychiatrist knit for you.
3. Your warm hat makes me a bit green as my doctor, the crack dealer of Michigan Avenue, knits me nothing except to hand me scripts for meds to keep my "crazy" away.
I always thought I was alone in my thinking until the day you mentioned the way light falls on trees at certain hours to make reality feel timeless.
4. They took you away to the hospital in August, boxed up your stuff, subletted your apartment, and sent you to the crazy place where only old people go. They told me you couldn't care for yourself anymore, that this was the best thing.
5. I sent you a store bought card for Halloween, but you are so much better at creating your own 'Day of the Dead' celebration like the tiny colorful skeleton displays in Pilson you entertained me with stories of when you lived there in your own apartment.
6. You share these stories while we sat over tea in your Lakeview apartment, walls covered with wide canvases of your oil renderings of the stories in your imagination, each with their own poem.
7. Walking to your tea pot for more hot water, I tripped over a jagged piece of chickenwire, scarring my bare right foot.
Rough Draft #2
Working Title: Remains of a Friendship Scarred
Alone, I thought I was, until the day you said that light falling on trees on a late August afternoon feels like timeless reality.
The old computer CD player echoes the Shins song, “kissing the lipless” which haunts me with the line ‘the grey remains of a friendship scarred.’
Your playful knock on my apartment door ready to walk barefoot along Lake Michigan’s wet sands in your patchwork jean skirt, busted together on a chickenwire bodice, red fishnets, pink high top sneakers, denim jacket and blue cabled hat you say your psychiatrist knit for you.
Green about your warm hat, as my doctor, the crack dealer of Michigan Avenue, knits me nothing and hands me scripts to keep my “crazy” away.
Early autumn, they took you away to the hospital, boxed your stuff, subletted your apartment, and sent you to the crazy place where only old people go. You, a whooping 34.
Halloween passed, I sent a store bought card. But you are so much better at creating your own ‘Day of the Dead’ celebration. I remember you told me about those tiny colorful skeleton diorama displayed on the street near your Pilson apartment.
We swap stories about old ghosts, our internal hauntings, while we sat over tea in your Lakeview apartment, walls covered with wide, colorful, impressionistic canvasses of your oil renderings. Paintings of the stories in your imagination, each with their own poem.
Walking to your tea pot for more hot water, I tripped over a jagged piece of chickenwire, scarring my bare right foot.
You have a new life now. One of Depakote, lithium, Celexa, Clozaril, and whatever else “they” have you on. One where big phrases like “psychiatric rehabilitation,” rule your days.
The place you stay now allows no visitors, leaving me to walk on Lake Michigan barefoot alone and watch the light fall off the waves into timeless reality.
Try going back to the drawing board and NOT consciously writing a poem just yet. Just answer the questions, but be specific in your answers. Go back to your original answers and flesh them out if need be. Okay?
By the way, these are great and vivid details to know. We just don’t need all of them...You’ll be able to pick and choose from these as we go along, but for now, go back and just carefully answer the questions. Okay?
A M wrote:
Ok, here is my rewrite to the six questions. I edited some of the details I gave you out from previous versions of the answers
1. You notice little things like the way light falls on trees on a late August afternoon feels like timeless reality.
2. You walk barefoot along Lake Michigan's wet sands, the Chicago skyline looming behind you.
3. You wear old jeans with a hole in the knee, a denim jacket, and a blue cabled hat your psychiatrist knit for you.
b. You share stories about old ghosts, internal hauntings, as we walk; you know your own Halloween.
c. Early autumn, at 34, they took you away to the hospital, boxed your stuff, subletted your flatt, and sent you to the crazy place where only old folks go.
4. The place you stay now allows no visitors, leaving me to walk alone along the lakefront barefoot and watch the light fall off the waves into timeless reality.
Good. Now, I combined the two/three sets of answers and put together a combo as a suggested framework. You can keep it or work on one of your own. Remember, the six questions are important as they frame a small story that is the basis for the poetic arc, that’s why I keep repeating them; they are not merely empty questions meant to elicit “poetic” sentences. Pay attention to what in specific they ask for.
Meanwhile, feel free either to keep what I suggest or do your own combination of the answers. But don’t forget there should be sense to the “story.” There are 2 answers below that still need to be filled in, marked by double asterisks. The rest of the A’s are your words. If you keep this version, tell me what you think and then we’ll start working with it or with whatever you come up with by combining the answers on your own.
Don’t worry that these sentences aren’t perfectly “poetic” just yet. We’ll get there!
When you have a combination you like, mine or yours, please leave it in the Q and A format for the time being. Don’t worry about turning the sentences into a poem just yet. Just think about each sentence, making it convey brief vivid images.
BTW: You asked about vivid verbs and images Here are some you can look at to use as models: “the child reached up as if to pluck the copper penny of moon” “the grizzled wolf slopes away under darkness, its topaz eyes scorching holes in the night” “I didn’t marry the right man for twenty years. Now see how fat he has grown against the sickle of my body. (from one of my poems). “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower...” (line by Dylan Thomas) Note the use of precise verbs that have very singular meanings, rather than general ones. I could have said burning, or worse, making holes in the night, but instead I chose “scorching” which has its own very particular cast...Ditto “pluck” and the unusual “slopes.” The line from the poem shows how simple words arranged in unusual ways can have striking effects: I didn’t marry the right man for twenty years: meaning, I married the wrong man and stayed married for 20 years...and the image of the sickle-like body is very clear. These may not be the best examples, the first two written off the top of my head, but they should give you an idea of what to strive for. Also, even though I did use a couple of adjectives, as a rule of thumb, it is best to avoid them as much as possible.
I know this is a lot to take in, but I will repeat all of it as the need arises, so don’t worry if you forget.
Q: Choose a person you love, a friend you adore and respect and admire. What attributes do you see more of than her or his faults?
A: My friend Cat is creative, intelligent, humorous. She notices little things like the way light falls on trees on a late August afternoon.
Q: What particular quality do you like most in this person?
**A: (Describe her creativity in specific terms, her hands? her oddball color sense?, her use of texture? How is she creative generally?)
Q: What reveals this quality? What does this person do that most endears her to you?
A. She loves to make clothes out of chicken wire and old scraps of clothes. She wears a blue, cabled hat knitted for her by her psychiatrist.
Q: Tell about these clothes she makes, does she wear them, what do they look like, how do people react to them? (Remember to answer this as briefly as possible but you can do so in a few lines if you like) Use some of the “rough draft” details here.
Q: What is the significance or meaning of her clothes and her wearing them, to you or to others? You can answer this in any way you choose.
A: ONE POSSIBLE ANSWER: (partly because of her outlandish clothing) early autumn, at 34, they took her away to the hospital, boxed her stuff, sublet her flat, and sent her to the crazy place where only old folks go. (plus transition to the last line) Other answers? Try others...?
Q: How has this changed you and/or others? Try for something not obvious, something that takes the reader by surprise, or sums up the rest of the sentences with an AHA!
A. (Walking to her tea pot for more hot water) I tripped over a jagged piece of chicken wire, scarring my bare right foot.