Tuesday, October 06, 2009

My work also sounds so mean and ironic. It is mean and ironic, but it isn't all mean and ironic.

Today was our first day actually workshopping in the poetry workshop I'm taking. It wasn't so bad. Everyone's comments were, in general, insightful and mostly helpful. There were a few that were very helpful.

All that said, I don't think my work is well suited to a workshop format. I write in long, messy sequences. I don't really write discrete poems--so I have to submit these weirdly excerpted chunks. Things that seem strange shifts in tone, diction & form, etc, usually are, but they also typically have resonances with what's happening later. I write very very loose rough drafts that get revised a lot--a lot--and I also do a substantial amount of reorganization.

I suppose what I have is a fairly boring kind of nervousness. I'm really not used to showing people rough drafts of my poems. I'm used to showing them third or fourth drafts--given the way I write, I'm not sure how useful a first draft is to really look at.

In and around our exhaustion with work, Mark and I have been talking about emotional availability in poetry. We haven't particularly defined what this is, and it's not "authenticity" or the opposite of irony or sarcasm, but whatever it is I feel like my recent work lacks it a bit. I want the sense that anything can come into the poem--I'm good at letting in things like roadkill, or the extreme exhaustion of the person sitting next to me on the bus this evening who kept falling asleep on my shoulder all the way from La Jolla to Carlsbad. However, I'm not so good at letting in the sunset over the beach out the window, or the pelicans and cormorants.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like your thorough discussion of why you feel funny about the first-draft/workshop fit; are you made to
submit first drafts, or could you, if there are any, submit 4th drafts? I do think you're right about the difficulty of viewing serial work discretely, but also wonder if there's not an exciting potential within the space of the exerpt: could easily just be me but it seems a bit like a formal analogue to contingency.

On a slightly different note: I love the quotation of yours in MW's Delirious Lapel intro; ok my reasons are admitedly selfish: it really clearly summarizes a large (surely not total) part of, a la Susan Howe, my feminism.

I hope all's well

Adam Strauss

sandrasimonds said...

@Adam

Sorry to use yr blog for this L, but Adam, I can't find yr email anywhere. Can you email me
ssimonds23@gmail.com?

thx
S

Anonymous said...

I really like the paragraph below:

In and around our exhaustion with work, Mark and I have been talking about emotional availability in poetry. We haven't particularly defined what this is, and it's not "authenticity" or the opposite of irony or sarcasm, but whatever it is I feel like my recent work lacks it a bit. I want the sense that anything can come into the poem--I'm good at letting in things like roadkill, or the extreme exhaustion of the person sitting next to me on the bus this evening who kept falling asleep on my shoulder all the way from La Jolla to Carlsbad. However, I'm not so good at letting in the sunset over the beach out the window, or the pelicans and cormorants.

I think it's interesting how you cite pelicans and cormorants as something your poetry doesn't let in in a discussion of emotional availability, as those lovely birds may not seem automatically to connect to that concept; I'd expect that observation, for example, in a discusion connecting poetry to place, more so than poetry as site of emotion.

Adam Strauss

jeannine said...

It's a slippery slope from sunsets to dew drops...

K. Lorraine Graham said...

@Adam: thanks for your comments--I think it was Christian Peet who quoted me this time (though Mark and I do like to quote each other : ) Re: the workshop, and drafts, and excerpts. I'm trying to be honest and submit new work, so that means it's rough, though I might not do that for the whole class. I also suspect that if I keep submitting excerpts from the same work in progress, then the excerpts will start to make more "sense."

@Jeannine--fortunately, there isn't much dew here in SoCal : P

K. Lorraine Graham said...

Adam, re:

"I think it's interesting how you cite pelicans and cormorants as something your poetry doesn't let in in a discussion of emotional availability, as those lovely birds may not seem automatically to connect to that concept; I'd expect that observation, for example, in a discusion connecting poetry to place, more so than poetry as site of emotion."

Sure, I agree for the most part, although your phrase "site of emotion" is interesting. Emotions happen in places, as do interactions between people, etc.

But I was certainly being indirectly snide about the cormorants and pelicans in a way that was not particularly, er, sophisticated: encounters with animals and nature are great moments for emotional and spiritual epiphanies, and what better place to describe an epiphany than in a relatively short poem! I am being ironic.

All that said, I sometimes wish that I could manage a poem about how genuinely wonderful it is to live near cormorants and pelicans. Except that my emotional relationship to cormorants and pelicans is all tangled up in my emotional relationship to San Diego, such as it is, and the people I know here and interact with here.

I will title my next manuscript, "The Suburbs and The Cormorants!" It will be a great American poem. Blech.

Anonymous said...

I am with you regarding the SD area: I'm not a fan of it, but love the ocean (I friggin hate drivin' in SD and environs); The Suburbs and The Cormorants sounds fabulous! I love equating beachyness to the suburbs! Aase Berg is great for animal poems, I think. Galway Kinnel's poem The Quick and The Dead--or somesuch--is a wonderful, to my heartmind, almost epiphanic animal poem.

I hope all's well!

I like how you point out that place, a site, of course does relate a lot to emotion.

Adam Strauss

pop quiz kid said...

"I'm good at letting in things like roadkill, or the extreme exhaustion of the person sitting next to me on the bus this evening who kept falling asleep on my shoulder all the way from La Jolla to Carlsbad. However, I'm not so good at letting in the sunset over the beach out the window, or the pelicans and cormorants."

I ADORE THIS.