Drafting: “Mother”

On the way back home from a trip, I opened up the newest issue of Gulf Coast (I’m a subscriber. You should be one too!) and started reading. I read a story, an essay, and a handful of poems before I gave up to stare at the rain again. Last night, while in bed, a poem smacked me between the eyes. I grabbed a pen and notebook and hung out in the bathroom (so not to wake my husband) until the draft found its way onto the page.

Writing lesson: Read good writing. I am entirely more likely to get inspired by the kind of language and juxtaposition I encounter in good writing (like the kind I find in literary journals I really respect), than when I’m reading novels like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. There’s nothing wrong with reading novels like that (I am reading just that novel right now), but if I want to be a better writer/poet, etc., I should start seeing how masters in my field do it. See what contemporary writers are doing nowadays; if we want to write literary writing , we should read literary writing: in journals, magazines, poetry collections, prize winners, etc.

Ever since I wrote that draft about Cronus eating his children, something about that has really been stuck in my head. Some paintings on the subject are incredibly grotesque, and just yesterday, my sister brought up the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, where the creepy monster also eats children. So, last night, the poem that smacks me between the eyes? About a wife that cooks children for her husband:

It begins,

“Bones like rattan,
she bats her eyelashes, the color
of dust in a beam of light. How fragile
she looks. Her husband slices off
the boy’s ear and chews it slowly. ”

The rest of the poem focuses on the woman’s perceived sense that what she feels she is doing out of love (a la cooking children for her husband, the man she loves) is the reason why her bones are becoming more and more brittle. She imagines this is God’s slow punishment for her, that she will break from the inside out. The title “Mother” is really just ironic for the time being. I might search out a better one later.

Right now, this poem feels closer to done than any poem I’ve drafted in a while, which gives me hope that maybe I’m getting back into the swing of writing again. In any case, woo hoo!

3 thoughts on “Drafting: “Mother”

  1. You are so right about reading good, juicy literary writing. I just finished “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward and figured out some really interesting ways to format fiction that rolls off the page poetically. Thanks for sharing. Love the concept of this poem.

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