“There is a slowness in affairs which ripens them, and a slowness in affairs that rots them.”
~ Joseph Roux, French hydrographer and painter
Generally, I’m against pre-set posts that go up at particular times, but I’m seriously considering it tonight. At the very least, I’ll probably type up tomorrow’s Recursion and then have it prêt-à-poster tomorrow morning, because this whole thing of crazy busy work time is not conducive to getting these prompts up in a timely fashion. (For which, once again, I apologize.) I ought not to complain about having a job, and I spend too much time as it is doing non-work-related things, but at the same time, it’s really awful to have the twin spectres of the Bottomless Pile of Onerous Tasks (which follow no parameters of schedule or duration), and the Critical Panopticon Boss. (This is why I don’t write allegories, I can’t think of succinct archetypes.) Without saying too much (for fear of, I don’t know, jinxes and retributions*), I’m hoping the situation will change soon and I can get a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but maybe I hope too much.
* I was reading about Urim and Thummim in the Torah, the divinatory devices of the Israelites’ High Priest, of unknown origin. The names have a couple possible etymologies, my favorite of which is “lights and perfections”. It’s just such a cool dyad. I want to start making cool dyads like this one, like jinxes and retributions, whenever possible.
Free admission: Louisiana, which I have never been to, is informing a lot of my idea of the last few days of riverine prompts. Maybe it’s because there is such a rich history/culture centered around the unique river’s-end landscape there, certainly the richest in the USA (with the possible exception of the Chesapeake Bay). But all of my Louisiana-sense is secondhand, so I apologize if I get some of it wrong. In any case, I’d like to delve into a couple different aspects of the Mississippi’s lower limb, and I hope you’re all as enchantedly unfamiliar with it as I am. No discussion of the Louisiana river course would be possible without the bayou, so that’s what we’ll discuss today. (We’ve already talked about levees, the other big one. Maybe steamboats, too.) The word refers to a very slow-moving stream (or other body of water), often branching from one body to another, often brackish and choked with bogs and marshes. I love the imagery of those lush, flooded woodlands, and although I’m sure I’d hate to actually live there, it’s easy to romanticize the landscape. The bayou teems with wildlife, and a rich culture and lifestyle have grown up around it.
Although I keep re-hashing the idea of gathering speed, power, and volume as this month-long exercise enters its final channel, let’s do try to slow down for just a moment. (Any river becomes a bayou if the brakes you apply are to time rather than space.) Re-focus on the rich collection of themes and images that you’ve built up over the weeks, and remind yourself of those ever-present different angles of examining the set as a whole. There’s three actions I’d like to take regarding that set of inspirations: first, multiplication. Make a list of ten recycled or new things (runoff from the bayou’s banks, rain over the bayou’s mud) that spring from/fit neatly into the unshakeable column of water that is your pet theme. (For that biological process in the world thing I’m working this week, I might pick things like honey, breeding sheep, air burial of the dead.) From each item, make some lines that branch off into a couple of connected thoughts which add a perfectly Decadent richness to the words: charming honey from bees and gathering it by hand, the messy action of actually shearing wool turning into clean yarn, seven generations of a family leaving their dead out for the vultures.
Then, restriction. Slow down to a single moment, and zoom in to a narrow scope. For that honey charming, I might want to write about the feel of bees crawling on a hand moving super-slowly to lift the comb from its well. When we have slowness, we have time to think; and when we have time to think, we find meaning in the simplest or quickest of actions. Confine your imagery and themes; you may also wish to set yourself a stanzaic form (though I don’t think the regularity of sonnets or rondelets works here, as with the waterwheel prompt), or at least a particular sound structure, to make your thought more measured. The last task is connection, as every good bayou lazes from one water to another. How does the microcosm teeming with small bursts of activity in a long, drawn-out moment, reflect one of those major river-themes? What can you say, or not say, to remind the reader of the hydrological connection? Consider the vocabulary, sounds, voices, and tones you’ve used in recent poems; do they match the color of the water and type of sediment in the bayou’s sort-of-removed sweep?
Bring all of this together into a whole that may seem jumbled, but is cohesive when you go deep, along the muddy bottom. Continue to carry us along; but only a little bit. There is time enough for rush tomorrow; and until then, do come back and share, so we can follow.