Drafting: “Pygmalion Makes a Woman”

Yesterday, I couldn’t write a poem to save my life. I went to some of my old hats–dark farm topics, poems I love reading that usually inspire me–but nothing worked. I ended up reading poetry for about 45  minutes and then having to give up to go teach.

Today, though, was a different story. Richard Tillinghast in an interview in the Spring 2012 issue of The Pinch talks about how important it is to stay in touch with poetry, either our own or by reading someone else’s, in order to open up that “avenue of inspiration.” It’s so true that some days I just can’t write, but if I stick through it and read and really absorb some wonderful poetry, I’ll be able to write in the near future. Science also backs this up, saying we “mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative.”

Today, I wrote a draft employing the Pygmalion myth, but that’s not how this poem started at all. The most current issue of [Pank] happens to be a science and fiction issue. I hadn’t read that one yet, so I sat down and read through all of the poems in that issue. Some are just achingly lovely.

These two poems by Robin LaMer Rahija really stuck out to me. I kept reading them throughout the day yesterday. Sometimes, I just enjoyed the pleasure of reading them aloud. The first one is just so gorgeous: linking a man falling to his death to a throat pulling in air before singing. The second one does a great job of making personal a weird premise. The second one has a wonderfully strange specificity (“sleep apnea”, “vile temper”, etc.) to it, so I started imagining what it would be like for a Pygmalion figure to make a woman with these strange imperfections. The poem ended up being sort of a list poem: what tics and qualities and scars he gives her.

“All he placed into the manhole in her chest
and corked with elephant tusk.”

Right now, the poem needs some trimming, and I’m thinking about playing with the form a good deal. I don’t do a lot of “form” poems, but this one seems to really want one that moves along the page more.

Either way, here’s to starting a new year of drafting!

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2 thoughts on “Drafting: “Pygmalion Makes a Woman”

  1. Wahoo for the new draft.

    It’s true that sometimes the forces need time to gather strength within before the poem appears on the page. This is a lesson I’m constantly having to re-learn. Thanks for the reminder.

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