Monday, January 19, 2009
201: PBPF, Day 1
Today: last night's sleep didn't get me far; perhaps calling it a three or four hour nap would do it more justice. Flight delayed in Atlanta; slept from before take off until the touch down jolted me awake, me thinking: that's a bit of turbulence. Went to the wrong hotel, and an eighty dollar taxi drive later, I am an hour late to the opening night. Despite all this, I am settled, signed up for a conference with Kimiko Hahn, contemplating what on earth I could say out loud that would be worth her fifteen minutes, thinking of how I already feel the buzz of jump-starting. Tonight, a book pile to consider.
And a poem, for you:
Ode to the Maggot
--- by Yosef Komuyakaa
Brother of the blowfly
And godhead, you work magic
In slabs of bad pork
And flophouses. Yes, you
Go to the root of all things.
You are sound & mathematical.
Jesus, Christ, you're merciless
With the truth. Ontological & lustrous,
You cast spells on beggars & kings
Behind the stone door of Caesar's tomb
Or split trench in a field of ragweed.
No decree or creed can outlaw you
As you take every living thing apart. Little
Master of earth, no one gets to heaven
Without going through you first.
Kimiko Hahn gave us a packet of four poems, and the idea is for us to use them as "stealing" prompts, as she put it. Look at the poem, figure out what you see, craft-wise, then turn it into a prompt:
- Write a poem that is a direct address.
- Write a poem that is a direct address and reveal who that subject is in the beginning. Or the end.
- Write a poem about something appalling and use an elegant style. Or vice versa.
- Make a list / definition poem of a particular object.
- Use heroic diction for something thing-ish.
She spoke of how workshops are to go: instead of those nitpicky line edits, we are instead to open ourselves up to listening, to knowing where the poem is working the hardest. She pointed out how revision isn't about polishing and fixing always as much as it's about making choices.
That sort of thinking takes a great weight off the poet's shoulders. Instead of finding a way to say it right, you find a way to fit it all together that works for you, that makes your heart sing. My heart singing? In my own work?
Trish Hampl talked about how we often think of life after the first draft as: "Fix it, stupid." But it's not about that. It's about re-singing, re-assigning, re-assessing, re-writing, re-vision, not about repair. Not in the frozen pipe / cracked windshield sort of way anyway.
It is night, and despite my hour and a half nap on the way here, I think I can get myself to sleep by midnight, wake to breakfast in the lobby on wicker chairs and between vibrantly mango colored walls.