Droughts, Drafts, and Dark Stars

This morning, as I walked around the lake (the only place with enough shade to make my 5 miles tolerable), I was struck by the effects of the drought on our little neighborhood body of water. All the run-offs, usually full and teeming with frogs, are dry stones. The geese are walking around in the water at least 10 feet from the shoreline of the lake where they usually swim. Green and fetid algae pools on the edges of the lake, under the bridges.

Sometimes I feel like my writing life is in the same situation. Geese stomping around where they shouldn’t be, stirring things up that are foul and unwelcome. No new ideas. No good news. Times of drought. But then the rain comes: ideas start flowing, and good news begins to trickle its way down the windowpane.

There have been several new drafts this week, drafts I think are promising. There has also been much revision of older poems, cutting and rehydrating them, trying to find the places where they sing.

On that note, I finally read an essay recommended by Doug Goetsch at my summer conference – “A Dark Star Passes Through It” by Leslie Ullman. You can read the essay here. It examines how to find the “center” of a poem as a reader – not necessarily its theme, but the place where you can feel the heightened energy of the writer. She examines poems by James Tate, Mary Oliver, William Stafford, James Wright and Adrienne Rich to explain her idea, and the essay is a gem from its first line:

“An inspired, well-made poem is all muscle, all linked movement and harmonious gestures, efficient and lovely as a snake moving across rocks or blacktop or water before it disappears into tall grass.”

Clouds are rolling in now- if we’re lucky, they will bring rain.


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