The hair-plans have met with rollicking success! Please observe:
I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out; people’s reactions at work and among friends have varied along the spectrum from “bemused” to “baffled”, but I can live with that. Terms such as “algae fire” and “electric grass” have been bandied about. The intent is to keep touching it up as it fades (being semi-permanent dye), so that there is a constant ebb and flow of color throughout. And then after the roots come in, I’ll bleach the new bits and start adding in a different color scheme that goes well, before beginning to trim out the upper bits. It’s this whole complicated procedure that I’m totally in love with, and do not regret one whit. ^_^
Everyone’s off at AWP right now, and I’m a mix of jealous and indifferent. Last year, I really did want to go — Boston is not so far, after all — but I knew from the get-go that I couldn’t afford the trip this year, since my would-be-crash-pad friend has decamped from Seattle for New Zealand. (She couldn’t handle the thought of me visiting so much that she literally had to go to the other side of the world.) I don’t know that I believe all the hype, though; it seems like the Dodge on steroids, and while I enjoyed the Dodge, it won’t save your life or anything. There’s this whole machine with the MFAs and journals and people throwing shade on anyone who doesn’t fit their paradigm and too many panels to see everything you want and exclusive parties and so on and so forth… I’d rather just relax, and write, and have the superpower of summoning any poets I want to dialogue with, via some kind of rip in space-time. But until that happens, I’ve been tagging various posts and Tweets with #nawp to signify “not-AWP” or “not at AWP”, as well as channel a bit of Whitman. I do hope everyone’s having a good time, but someone needs to balance things out a bit…
Enough of that. Let’s talk about resonance nine. This year I’ve been on a book-a-week reading frenzy, and have just finished book #12 (ahead of the game! wooo), which was Ballistics by Billy Collins. I’ve never read a book-length collection of his before, and it created a mix of emotions. (I should do a proper review of it. Consider this a mini version.) There are individual poems of his that I’ve been dazzled by, but as with any collection, this one had the gristle in with the meat, and some of them just seemed two-dimensional. He often seems to be (in this collection, at least) a poet of stumbling across a slightly odd everyday experience, and then turning it into a portrait of “Billy Collins considers X”, which I’d say works well about 50% of the time, works brilliantly about 20% of the time, and then just elicits a shrug for the rest. (Granted, that’s a ratio better than most poets that try the same.) But it did get me thinking about that as a process, and how it can be turned into an activity that we can use for some generative work.
Make a list with at least one element in each of the following categories: an object lying around your house; a view in one direction from wherever you’re sitting; a mundane personal detail; a place you’ve been frequently; a place you’ve never been, but often dream about going; a nameless stranger you encountered (and what the encounter was); a factoid you read in a book; and an emotion too complicated to be summed up by one word. Try to get at least two elements for each category here, and be as authentic and detailed as you can. (Better to develop extensively and not use everything than to leave us in some kind of vague dark.)
Now you’re going to half-create the prompt yourself, like a mathematical formula. Come up with a list of connections that will enable you to attach one of these elements to another: some suggestions might be as it relates to, which reminds me of, which suggests, found in, creating a sense that, indicating that, etc. To give a brief example, let’s say I filled in the first three categories with “a box of champagne flutes”, “the trash in the alley closed off by corrugated metal”, and “I have defined veins on my hands.” Then I used the connections found in and which reminds me of, to create a string like “a box of champagne flutes, shattered, might be found in the trash in the alley closed off by sheets of metal, corrugated and battered like the veins running over my hands.” Allow it to transform and flow freely, before starting to follow the order of operations here. I might turn such a stream-of-consciousness thought into a short poem about breakage, frailty, and feeling unwanted, but still acknowledging the sharp, sinister, and graceful quality of that wreckage (both literal and metaphorical).
The challenge here is to take these square pegs and fit them into round holes, while making them artful. Streams of consciousness happen. Don’t try to dam, ford, leap, or otherwise avoid them; follow the current like a leaf bobbing down the water. A lot of this is, I feel, the way we approach the world “poetically” to begin with, sorting out information in our heads, linking it together with our brains’ capacity for connection, and then slowly shaping it into thought, followed by (if we are so inclined) words. I have no idea if Billy Collins does his poems of everyday experience like this, but it’s what reverberated for me after reading his work. I’ll close with one parting thought: the most important thing you can do after this exercise is cut stuff out. Allow everything to link together with all its sopping mess, and then carefully prune it down into something that fits your aesthetic of what a poem should be. (Which may be very different from mine, or someone else’s, of course.)
As always, you are welcome and encouraged to come drop a link to what you come up with in the comments. But if you’d rather just keep it to yourself… so be it!