Drafting: “Maidens Bound to Rocks”

Looking back through my entries, I realized I hadn’t written a poem since February 22nd. What an awful shame that nothing breathed through me the entire month of March (though I did rattle off a good 12 pages of CNF right after my surgery, but CNF just isn’t like poetry…). AWP and my surgery and then recovery and then going back to work have all been culprits, but I’m so glad today to say that the hiatus is, just for today, over.

This week, writing has come in stops and starts. I’d start writing something and then “tumor” would swoop into the poem and I’d have no idea where to go from there. On Tuesday, I was writing a poem about two people kissing in a shed when suddenly the line, “your radiologist points out your ovary,/the size of your fist” appeared on the page. Way to kill the romance, huh? I don’t know quite how to deal with those invasions yet, so I’ll just try to let them happen, but this week, they kept stopping my pen.

Today, I came home from teaching, sat myself down, and returned to the myths that I was reading religiously in February. I looked up the myth of Hyacinthus (a youth Apollo loved that gets turned into a tree) that I wanted to write about before this hiatus, but I discovered a better myth to write about. The myth of Hyacinth is about a father who sacrifices his daughters on the tomb of a Cyclops to help his city. That was enough for me, though I did some tweaks since it just sounded better if the Cyclops ate the girls.

It begins,

“Strange to see a monster’s teeth
dripping with your child’s blood.”

As of now, the poem is in five long stanzas, and each one explores the father’s relationship with the daughter that is about to be eaten or has been eaten, or the father’s own exploration into the nature of “sacrifice.” In some myths, the maiden is replaced by a deer or whisked away by a god, and the father has real grief that his girls aren’t being saved. The poem is a bit of a mess. My writing muscles felt flabby, so it was taking longer to get things going and stay on one train of thought. Now that the hard rush of a draft is through, I can step away and come back to it with a better eye (and hopefully, a more worked writing muscle).

How wonderful to be writing poetry again! How are you all holding up under the strain of April?

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5 thoughts on “Drafting: “Maidens Bound to Rocks”

  1. Hmm, just realized I haven’t written poems in April! I’ve been revising three or four poems I wrote in March, so maybe that’s why. Congrats on sitting down again.

    I don’t know what to say about the surgery intrusions except that I have about seven poems that deal with that topic, and I don’t love them. Didn’t Sylvia Plath write a great hospital poem though? It’s called “Tulips.” I guess it can be done. I don’t think I have the distance.

    I’m finding it interesting these days to write about early childhood. Since so much time has passed it’s incredible to take a look at that stuff with adult eyes, but also remembering how I felt as a child.

    1. I get that definitely. I wrote a CNF piece about the whole diagnosis/hospital experience that I’d really like to go back to and work on more, but I haven’t had enough distance to really be able to look at it objectively and explore its effects. I’ve looked at it several times now and I always go back to, “I’m not ready yet.”

      I don’t know what to do with these intrusions either. Richard Tillinghast writes a lot of good hospital poems too. He spent like a whole year or something in the hospital when he was an undergraduate.

      Who knows? Maybe something great will come out of this for us both years from now?

  2. If you’d like me to read it for you, let me know. My major surgery was in 2003, so 9 years ago! I should have more distance by now, but don’t feel like I do. I guess if I wrote fiction I would be able to do it better, or if I created a character for a poem.

    By the way, sent five poems off today! Now I’m going to try to forget about them.

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