Ariel Gore asked me some questions about writing Bluebeard’s Castle for her experimental story structure students.
Which came first in this project . . . structure or content?
Did you have content and then build a structure to accommodate it then add the connective tissue?
Or did you have a structural idea and then write the content to fit that concept?
Or something else?
I guess the question is how and at what juncture(s) did you stop and map it out?
Somewhat paradoxically, Bluebeard began by my writing about my illness and hospitalization. I was really trying to write about it once and for all. I even went to Boston and did a series of private rituals for soul retrieval. But I kept being haunted by the fact that my father blamed me–and not just for that. That created a bridge to the Grand Canyon material–which set up a relationship to the Southwest, my home as an adult. At about this point I realized I had something. I also had a few flash memoirs, like the 9/11 piece. I started to fill in the holes–the most interesting was the family history of my grand-father, the garment industry, etc. Many of the poems were already written but uncollected–Firebird, Cossacks…sort of obsessional material. Then I did my father’s decline and death, soon after it happened, linked to Icelandic poems. So the three central sections were written in order. The “Psyche” poems had been written as a suite a few years before, and are a contrast–introspective, female, mythic.
So, basically yes–Did you have content and then build a structure to accommodate it then add the connective tissue?
I was about half way through before controlling the structure. I worked the whole book the way I would a single hybrid piece–listening for musicality and contrast, controlling repetition, leaving some holes for ambiguity.