I’ve been working on revising several poems that I drafted about a year ago. This is pretty typical for me. I think of an idea, I write a first draft, sometime a second or third and then I let it sit for “awhile.” Sometimes it’s just a few days, sometimes a few weeks or months and sometimes it’s a year. The good news is that I have a lot of ideas. The bad news is that finished drafts can be slow in coming to fruition.
I am reminded of my slowness by three of my poems that appeared today in Rust + Moth
. I wrote all three of these poems while I was a graduate student at the University of North Texas. They were drafted and revised and eventually included in my thesis. I finished that program in December 2005. I returned to one of the poems, “Song,” while enrolled in my MFA program at Murray State University. I think this was one of the first poems I brought to workshop (maybe?), so it was sometime in 2007-2008. This month, October 2013, these three poems finally found a home.
When I think back to the time that I was writing these poems, it was a turbulent period for me. I had graduated from Allegheny College, packed a U-Haul and moved down to Texas to enroll in a graduate program. I didn’t know anything about Texas. I didn’t know anyone in Texas. By the middle of my first semester of graduate school, I was also convinced I didn’t know anything about poetry, literature or being a scholar. In fact, I was pretty sure that it was only a matter of time before I called it quits and went home. However, I’m a stubborn soul (I think it might be that “Yankee” in me that everyone in Texas kept referring to whenever I opened my mouth) and I refused to give up. I knew I was homesick and I also knew that I had to suck it up and move on. I met my friends Natalie and Sam and Michael and Crystal and Terry. I soon realized that half the people I was in class with (people just mentioned excluded) didn’t really know what they were doing either, so we were all in the same boat and that made it less lonely. I started exploring my surroundings more and I found that I liked Denton. I remember walking across campus one night and pausing beneath a tree and hearing a chorus of birds. It was comforting and it was beautiful, so I went home and and wrote the first draft of “Song.” I remember reading Anna Akhmatova in workshop and being so intrigued by her work, and “Stargazer” came as a result of that interest. Finally, sitting out on the stone steps during a break from class, surrounded by cigarette smoke, I looked up to see huge seed pods hanging from the trees. Obviously, the ideas in all three poems evolved and deepened from the first image, but I feel a certain a sense of completion to know that they are finished and out in the world for other people to read.
I’ve spent the entire day at home revising poems, reading poetry and occasionally asking my fuzzy pup, Kweli, if he thinks a certain line or word sounds right. He has very discerning taste. My two Zebra Finches, Humphrey & Pip, just chirp at me whenever I speak to them.
What a lovely day it has been to stay in my house and work. Actually, this week overall has been pretty great. Two fellow poets from Murray had work published this week: Karissa Knox Sorrell & Pamela Johnson Parker. These are wonderful poems and you should read them.