Poetic process isn’t always easy to engage with, no matter how long you’ve been writing. Mine changed in startling and unlooked for ways in the past year—and surprisingly it took me quite a while to notice.
Last October I was at Wildacres in the Smokies, working with my daughter Isabel Winson-Sagan. She taught me to do suminagashi—Japanese style marbling, which works as a kind of mono print of ink on water. In the week there, we worked at full throttle. I wore all the poems that appear in our collaborative book Spilled Ink.
Then, I didn’t write another poem for five months. This is unusual, as I try to write about 8 poems a month—even if they are bad, or off the cuff haiku that don’t quite work. I like to keep warmed up.
Instead, I was working on a novel, The Future Tense of River, entranced by the fun and difficulty of getting the first draft underway. I started another project, 100 CUPS OF COFFEE, a mix of poetry and prose, but the poetry was diary-like, not meant to stand alone.
In the spring, I had a horrifying “oops” moment. I wasn’t writing poetry. I was as startled as if I’d suddenly realized I hadn’t brushed my teeth in five months.
Experience has taught me not to panic about writing, so I figured—hey, just write some poems. I started, and these poems were really different. They were long and skinny (a form I’d been soundly criticized for as a Freshman in college and have avoided since.) They had no capital letters—something I usually think ill of. And they had very little punctuation. This last bit I’ve had to re-think, as editors keep asking for it.
They feel fast, impressionist, associative. They need one solid pass or draft. If that doesn’t work, they don’t seem revisable, I just throw them out. I can do detail edit, but the shape is fixed for good or ill by the first draft.
It’s kind of scary, but they seem to work just like mono printing or suminagashi.
I don’t know what to call them, but I’m writing a lot. And publishing. Editors seem to really like them, and most acceptances are coming in batches. Sometimes the poems cluster, or seem to make one larger poem. They might be a sequence, a book, or something else completely.
Here is an excerpt from a group just published in Apricity—a lovely e-zine.
the red neon SANTA FE
on the top of the Gothic Revival
across from my hotel room
on a rainy night in
my love for you is pure,
thing in this world,
and I’m perfectly happy
with you in my bed,
the news of another poet’s
fame made me jealous
I count myself lucky
to not be translating
out of my native tongue.
And do explore the magazine—http://www.apricitymagazine.com/. They are reading submissions and emphasize the visual arts, as you can see here: