Drafting: “The Swamp Wife”

“Wife” poems are beginning to be a pattern for me. In my manuscript, Predator’s Tongue, I’ve got “The Salt Miner’s Wife,” “The Tanner’s Wife,” and “The Child-Eater’s Wife.” On top of that, I have eight poems outside of those that deal specifically with husband/wife relationships.

I attended a reading by Audrey Niffenegger a couple years ago, and she talked a little about her novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife. She said she had come up with the title first, and she was attracted to it because it not only indicated an occupation, but a relationship. That has always stuck with me, and I’ve found myself doing the same thing, thinking of an occupation or hobby, and then wondering what it would be like to be married to that person.

I got married last year, and I was and am still struck by how different it felt for me to be married. I had thought nothing would change. My husband and I had dated for two and a half years, and lived together for a year before we got married. I thought a wedding would be a lot of paperwork and fuss, but marriage wouldn’t intrinsically change the relationship we already had. But for me, it did. The best way I can explain it is it was as if something was sealed. I think some of these poems, while very different than the relationship I have, are about exploring my ideas of marriage against society’s ideas of marriage (divorce, role of women in marriage, til death do you part, etc.).

This poem arose out of a lot of discombobulated images and reading some of Karen Russell’s gorgeous Swamplandia. 

It begins,

“She cleans a bullfrog of its eyes, works the legs
until the muscle surrenders. She tells it love
is knowing the other’s breaking point.”

The rest of the poem focuses on the regular activities of this Swamp Wife against the inaction of her alcoholic Swamp Husband. I have a clear beginning and end at the moment, but the middle still feels incomplete, so I’ll be thinking on this one some more.

I’m hoping writing this poem also means I’ll be able to get back into my old “at least one poem a week” routine. We’ll see!


3 thoughts on “Drafting: “The Swamp Wife”

  1. I like hearing the thought process of other writers, when it comes to titles. They are often overlooked, but the effectiveness of a title can make or break a poem.

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