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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Behind the Scenes with "Song of Weights and Measurements"

So, this week Poetry published one of my poems.

One of my favorite parts about completing a poem is going back and having a gander at the handwritten first drafts.

Call me a weirdo, but I enjoy seeing just how awful my early drafts often (always!) are. Also, I like seeing how a poem evolves, (in most cases, but not always) improves, with research, with fiddling, with reading aloud, with seemingly endless tinkering.

We, my family and I, were on an early morning commuter train. Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go? Nope,  more like through the Rainier Valley to SeaTac, to a condo in Florida.

Suitcases stacked by the closing doors. Kids running around to find the best seat, and me, with this crazy notion to begin a poem.

My favorite thing about this page? How I had the good sense to cross out of heartfulness ~ right away, and seemingly without hesitation.

It was very meandering, very much about letting the poem go where it wanted. I always try to put my critic to bed during this stage. Glad to see I decided to cut the part about 6th grade, aren't cha?

The cough syrup bottle makes an appearance! But wad-ho, what a mess with its capful of sound advice!

We arrived in Florida, played in the sun/sand for a few days, and then my hubby agreed to take the kids to the pool while I spent some time by myself in the hotel room doing research. Who knew that six sacks was 5 fotmat?!

On January 29, I moved from notebook to laptop, working on this poem for six weeks before sending it to Poetry in February 2014. Three months passed, and then, in mid-May, I received an email from Don Share. He wanted to accept "Song of Weights and Measurements," but he was hesitant. He felt it took a slightly wrong turn near its close. 

It took a few days to approach this delicate situation of having to go back in and operate. After two days of dancing around it, asking friends for advice, wringing my hands, I began fiddling. 

I was sitting at a table at my local public library, having switched out a few lines. I wasn't sure I'd fixed it quite exactly, so I sent it to Don for his take. I heard back in less than five minutes. I'll take it.

Tears streaming down my face, I walked quickly out of the library ... so I could let out a squeal without disturbing the other patrons.

I had never believed it would happen. Who ever does? I just kept trying to write the best poems I knew how to write, keeping this quote by Paula Modersohn-Becker in mind:

One does as best as one can, and then one goes to sleep.
And that is how one day it comes apparent that one has achieved something.

1 comment:

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