Monday, October 3, 2011

it's been a while

My daughter stopped by to pick up a few things a little while ago. She's with her dad this week. She drooped with fatigue, was famished but said she'd wait until she got home with her daddy, would make him feed her dinner. She has a big anatomy test tomorrow, just finished marching band rehearsal. She was wearing my old, red flannel shirt over a T-shirt and over those, my old jeans jacket. I wear my father's jeans jacket now, and I don't need two.

I was thinking about how I used to wear my mother's socks under slacks sometimes, socks my father gave to me when he was cleaning out his bathroom just before he sold his house a year before he died, about five years after my mother died.

I wrote a new poem this morning, but it was just for fun. I have been experimenting with writing poems beginning with lines by famous poets, an exercise my MFA mentor gave our class. The ones I've been trying to write seriously suck ass and make me unhappy. This one starts with a Frank O'Hara line, and I don't want to share it with the group (or anyone, really) because we will end up revising the heat out of it. Craft is all well and good, but I feel like I'm beginning to squeeze my charm out of my poems. I like this bad poem, so I don't think I want to share it with real poets.

Our mentor posted to the discussion board a revision of a poem I've been working on since the summer residency. He likes the revision, though I know he doesn't think it's quite finished.

I don't like the revision, though it has its moments. As my good friend Laura says, she can tell it's a carefully crafted poem, but she agrees that something is missing from it. I think what's missing is some kind of heat or smelly flesh or pain that was in the original. It's too cold now, at least for me. It doesn't feel like my poem. I'm not sorry that I took out most of the speaker, turned her into witness, but removing her (removing me), excising the messy relationship crap between mothers and daughters, makes the poem feel sterile to me now.

I liked the chaos of the original.

But that's not what will go into a thesis.

A thesis can't be chaotic unless I figure out a way to sell "chaos poems."

I think I may end up needing to fight for my tendency to throw everything into the same drawer, to mix silverware with cough drops and eyebrow tweezers.

I'm not saying this program isn't working for me. It is. I'm paying a great of attention to craft, and I'm writing poems that are, maybe, more layered than what I was writing without the classes.

But I don't like them. I would not pick up a book of poems by the poet who has been writing the poems I've been writing.

She bores me.

But Lizzie is still here, lurking and waiting, wondering if I can hold onto myself and fight for my true poems or maybe if just need to wait until I'm finished, until I defend my thesis, which will be full of poems I won't like much, so I'll have to fake the defense. In the end, I'll have a masters degree, will have learned a great deal about craft that I can apply not just to poem but to fiction, to story, will be able to use what I learn to teach and to live.

Right now, I know I'm doing "good work." I'm thinking, posting regularly to the message board, revising in ways that seem to please my professor.

But it feels ... fake to me. I am not writing authentic poems. This bothers me, but I'll figure out a way through it.

Ah well. I won't think about transforming into something colder and more delicate than I want to be. I'll try to hold onto myself through this process. I rather like it when I overwrite, you know? I like breaking the line at the breath rather than always wondering if the line should be enjambed.

When someone else enjambs my lines, and I read them back to myself, I find that I hiccup on them. It's unnatural and has made me develop a sort of stutter when I read my work back to myself aloud.


Things I want to include in poems:

- the cashier at the grocery store carded me today. I think they are supposed to card customers who appear to be under 40 when they buy alcohol (I bought wine). I thought she was just being nice because sometimes the cashiers do that just to make me feel young because I'm always pleasant to them. But she meant it, meant that she didn't believe I was as old as I am. She studied my driver's license like I'd had Charlie Bartlett make me a fake one and then said, "I don't care that your hair is white. I know plenty of people who went gray prematurely. And you sure don't look like you're older than me." Makes me smile.

- the plumbing disaster (I have actually started this poem, but it's not going well, so I am going to start over and let it be what it wants to be instead of something I think my professor will like).

- the boy in the band who needs help shoving his hair up under his uniform hat but makes it so difficult that I never want to help him though I know he needs extra love

- the marching band

- making waffle batter for the waffles the boosters sell to raise funds for the band

(I know, I know, there is a lot about the band here)

- the pregnant band freshman

- the former clarinet star who had a baby over the summer

- that junior high sleepover, circa 1970, involving raw eggs, a neighbor's Cadillac, cold, October air, and seven girls who disliked me

- my husband

- A Wrinkle in Time

- Psalm 102:7


I thought I lost one of my checkbooks, but it was tucked between the pages of one of three tiny notebooks I carry in my purse. I guess I should cut back on the number of notebooks I carry.

I think it's time to get back to writing. My professor advised me to watch The Thin Red Line to help with the revision of a poem I wrote related to a young friend's graduation from boot camp. The DVD is due back at the library tomorrow. I've tried to watch. It's agonizing for me to watch war films, especially those made after the 1960s or so. I refuse to watch The Deer Hunter, nearly had a panic attack when I watched Full Metal Jacket, walked out of Platoon. A boyfriend took me as a date, though I'd told him I didn't want to see it, that I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it.

He did not come after me when I ran out of the theater. I didn't expect him to.

We didn't last.

(this isn't about a pacifist chick watching war movies any more, can you tell?)

I haven't lasted with anyone, though, so that's no shock.

Oct. 10 is National Coming Out Day. I think I will come out as a Celibate Crone.

I'll tease my silver hair out to California and rouge my cheeks and wear something long and dark and baggy that day. But I'll rub glitter into the fabric so I twinkle when I move.


  1. and what's wrong with poems about the band?

  2. I think there will be a very large crowd of like minded Celibate Crones coming out on October 10.

    Good to catch up with you again.

  3. Hey, Sugar. Just dropping in to see how you are, where you are, what you're doing. Hoping your poem writing went (and is going) well and that National Coming Out Day was everything you imagined it would be and more. xo