These butterflies are out in force, drawn by the pungent flowers on the bushes surrounding our deck. They are lovely, different than the typical orange monarchs and solid yellow flutterers that we usually see here. They have been constant companions, especially today while I took advantage of the perfect summer day to start a new project (more about that below) and do some revisions on older work.
I am reading Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell , and it has inspired a new project. I am taking notes on phrases that catch my attention as read the letters in sets of twelve. There are 459 letters in the book, which would give me 38 sets of poems with a few remaining. As I take the notes, I then plan to fashion a poem from the phrases – sometimes using just the phrases (as a sort of cento) and sometimes with added material to make them behave as proper poems. I thought this would be an interesting way to keep me focused on the material, as I often get lost in long, epistolary books.
So, as a way to kick it off, here is a rough draft of the first piece, inspired by Letters 1-12 in the book.
I’m Afraid that You Have Had a Miserable Winter
My worst fears, my ambitions:
a fire, burnt tar-paper
a wastebasket, an accident
a thimbleful of water
A sense of horror and mystery:
a fish being angled for off-shore
a seasick feeling – something like death
Memory stirred – anonymous threats
disreputable rooming houses
a calf being born in the pasture
high red cliffs; harbor at low tide
pleasant, undeserved things –
the library, muttering contentedly
my scathing history: a relative; a mystic.
Language fails me.
As always, I would love some feedback on the poem or the project. And enjoy the butterflies!