I’m a fan of Sandy Longhorn’s poetry blog. She does a great job at writing about writing, which is a hefty task.
She does an interesting drafting technique that I thought I would try: “Read and collect words haphazardly… Read and collect lines that hint at titles that might work… Let the title and the word bank coalesce into the beginning of a draft.”
I started reading through randomly picked poems from James Allen Hall’s Now You’re the Enemy (who will also be attending The Pinch’s Fall Release Party on November 5th! I’m SUPER excited!). Words were really not jumping out at me (not that he doesn’t use them beautifully), so I instead focused on the emotion behind some of the poems. Many of his poems have a real rage behind them, and I found myself thinking of the line, “We want sons, but have girls.”
I started imagining this man and woman who don’t want girls for some reason, some big reason, yet have them. The mother is furious and bitter, which at first comes across unsympathetic. I think poetry (and writing in general) needs to push for characters that have more than one emotion, to strike at the vulnerable core we can all relate to. So, I needed to figure out the why. What would be so bad about having girl children?
From there, I started thinking about fables and imagined one involving twins: this mother and father both are twins themselves (not with each other) and know that they will have twins. I then moved to the reason why the mother might not want girls: because something happened to her and her twin, maybe something physical, maybe something like a curse. I’m leaning toward leaving that open, to just having the mother watch her twin sister’s deterioration and know that that will one day happen to her own twin girls. This draft is still being fleshed out, but I love the fantasy of it, the fun of creating characters who have strong emotions.
I did write another poem from the perspective of a slightly off mother that was published in The Meadow in Spring 2011:
“Gathering an Appetite”
I bring a fork, a knife, and a spoon to bed with me.
I might awake to labor pains,
to my body’s desire to turn itself inside out.
Pregnant again, belly curved like a cow’s ass,
Tommy promises he’ll leave if this one is another dud.
After Montgomery came out with dwarfed arms,
Tommy never forgave me.
It’s your fucking womb; It’s just as cursed as you are.
His son would never handle a tractor,
never work outside a horse stall.
I once saw a mother corn snake, threatened,
swallow its young. They were weak.
If the fetus that stirs inside me like an unsettling brew
comes out with any deformity,
I’ll eat it to protect it from itself.
Here, the speaker desires the death of her own child, but out of a misguided sense of saving it. Here, too, is the brutal sense of the fairy tale, eating the child that stirs in her like a witch’s potion. I find myself so attracted to speakers who either want or don’t want something passionately.
Where do you find your inspiration? What characters/narrative arcs/emotions, etc. do you keep writing over and over?