“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”
~ Norman Maclean, American short story author
Scribbling out a quick prompt while I have the chance…!
Because I assume you want to know more about my sorry little life, after a crisis of confidence in writing last night, I realized that I’d pretty much hit The Wall of NaPoWriMo. You know how runners talk about the wall, that point where your body just refuses to function any further, and even the physics of momentum/inertia seems like it can’t keep you going forward? Muscles and nerves refusing to fire, etc.? I think that about sums up how it was. (I ended up surfing the Net for 2 hours.) But I jotted off a quick rhymey ditty, went to bed, and woke up early enough this morning to treat myself to another pancake breakfast with my notebook in hand. I have to stop making a habit out of this, but at least it got me feeling like there were things worth saying that I could say, and setting things in motion again. If you’re at that point with the month, never fear: we’re in the final stretch now.
Our river has begun its final descent to the sea. I’m a big fan of cities at river mouths, for some reason: New York, Philadelphia, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam. And even seaside places that don’t have a major river by them: Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco. Paris and London and Montreal are all lovely, but there’s too much land around; I love a good marine vista. There’s something about allowing the water to parcel us up that has an implicit (and sometimes misplaced) trust in nature, but also an assertiveness in catching ourselves between land and sea, in the hopes of taming both. We rely on both for survival, and have managed to turn both into mechanisms of trade and development. Or maybe it’s just that now and then we need something to gaze at which is impossible to turn busy: you need a lot of ships and swimmers to make the ocean as distracting as developed earth. People can approach such a city from all directions, and so many factors come together to make them grow, sometimes more than they should, but always in a way that seems relatively effortless.
Such a metropolis is ripe with things to appropriate for poems. If you don’t live in such a place, don’t worry: our exercise today does not rely on firsthand/current experience with it. Think back to those prompts when I asked you to grow things along the edges of a river, using its water. Rather than growing, this time we are going to allow things to come to the river; and remember, the nature of the current has changed, twisted, amplified. Go out and do some gathering in your everyday: try to find twenty items for a list, be they concrete items, abstract ideas, everyday moments, unique experiences, bodily feelings, momentary emotions, or random musings. I recommend standing up and walking around (as Miz Quickly also has you doing today), through a park, a garden, or some other liminal space between the natural and the urban. See how the built collides with the unbuilt, and make note of the interactions that take place.
With that spirit held close, begin to go through your poems this week and see how they reflect the river itself, that line of theme and image that’s been increasing its velocity. Which of the items in your list will be nourished by that stream‘s water? If you noticed a man polishing hubcaps this morning, it may not fit with iconoclastic grief, but if you saw warblers tearing yesterday’s paper to shreds, that could be perfect. Let’s say that for my biological process in the world theme, I came across bees swarming around a dead pigeon, taxicabs nearly colliding, and a woman, topless, smoking on her fire escape. The middle one probably wouldn’t work very well, but the other two have potential. Explore the interaction between these found moments and the theme in question; I know we’ve been doing a lot of resonating of this kind, but my goal is that it puts you in a state of mind to perceive and be ready to investigate such correspondences. Part of the charm of poetry is its ability to pick out the unexpected meanings; part of the charm of the river-as-city-aorta is that sooner or later, everyone wanders down to see it.
And for added masochistic shiggles, if you need a particular form challenge today, it is Day 26, so… maybe try an abecedarian, where each line of the poem starts with the next letter of the alphabet. (Start with whichever letter you want, and maybe circle back to the beginning in a final, 27th line.) Then show us what you’ve got!