This week I am heading north to the big mitten for the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing. I am looking forward to giving a presentation on “Poetry as Worship, Poetry in Worship: Inviting Creativity into the Worship Experience” – and with a title like that, who could skip it, right? I’m also moderating a small poetry press panel Saturday on the joys and challenges of publishing poetry. It should be a great weekend – as always it’ll be a stretch to step out of my introverted tendencies and pretend to really, really like social engagements, but it’ll be worth it to mingle with a bunch of like-minded people.
April poem-a-day hit a small wall over the weekend, but on the plus side, I got my really super cool and neat presentation all set and read lots of really super cool and neat poetry in order to prepare for it. We’re half way there now, and I’ve gotten a few good poems out of it already, maybe a few potentially good poems, and a handful of crumbs that might make good compost out in the garden later on this spring.
I had a great conversation today at lunch with some folks from Ashland University’s English Department and Richard Hoffman, who was the nonfiction visiting writer that presented this afternoon. Part of our chit-chat was about writing process, which is inevitably the topic of choice with a writer. Am I writing enough? Should I be writing more? How do you do it? When do you do it? Pen and paper or computer? Revise right away or wait a few weeks/months/years? Can you teach it? Help me!
My writing process is pretty basic: live in and be awake to the world around you so that the stuff of poetry and writing can get lodged under your gritty fingernails to be picked out when the time is right. “The time is right” when there is some of it – when the kids are asleep and the husband is watching sports, or when the kids are asleep and the husband is out of town, or when the kids are watching a show and you just can’t wait until after they go to bed for the good idea itching in your head to be scratched and placed on the page. That’s about it. I got nothin’ else except a notebook in my purse and a pen in my pocket, y’all.
Speaking of notebooks and pens, I eked out another poem for poem-a-day today, and since I haven’t shared any of the other works-in-progress, I will drop this one in here. I think it illustrates the kind of thing I’m talking about, re: writing process.
The Inspired Works
During my daughter’s soccer
on a blanket. Something between
the kindergarten giggles
and parent chatter muffled
by wind gusts across the field
sizzled in my mind and I reached
beyond the diapers and teething
rings, fiddled over hardened
gummy bears and crumbs to the pen
at the bottom of my purse. If only I
could write a word or two before
the thought is gone, I thought,
but my drool-mouthed son
came over to consider the paper
and tore off a corner. He frowned
and flopped back on his haunches,
pudgy feet and double chin
working out the wonder of it.
He worried it over in his fingers
then figured maybe it’d be tasty.
A saliva grimace and tongue
delivered the corner into my palm
and then with nothing left
to crinkle or eat, he turned
his attention to the grass,
so cool and green and itchy,
and the blanket, so soft and red
and blue. The sun moved
quicker, the air cooler.
Soccer was almost over but
there was my chance. I perched
my pen above the line, wrote
“I” in a cursive loop, prepared
for the verb but then,
then my other son’s hand
landed hard on my book.
He laughed at how I couldn’t
write around it, laughed
as I darted from finger to line,
top to bottom, then wriggled
his bony body between me
and the sheet, both hands
splayed across the page.
I traced around his fingers,
down the edge of his thumb,
filled the page with his mittens,
his imprint one of many
this evening that leave these
impressions long after soccer
and whatever it was I thought
was more important is over,
the red wagon loaded down
with balls, bags, blankets,
and a wrinkled sheet of paper under
my daughter and my boys.
How are you doing with your poem project for April, if you have one? Any luck? Getting stuck?