Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Poetry is a Process

sols_5-years_w1I'm writing every day in March as part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Stop by! 



The wind moans.
Winter approaches like a wolf.
Slowly creeping nearer;
nearer.
Unnoticed, unremarked

Suddenly darting through yellowing grasses,
she pounces on her shivering prey.

Her twitching ears are the
dying leaves
dangling and dancing to the
wind’s frenzied tempo

Her amber, glowing eyes
a Jack o’ Lantern’s flickering flames
or the
harvest moon gazing down.
Reminding us all that
winter is coming.


Ah, the process of a poem. First, let it be known that this poem is based on an activity I made my third graders do. We read a poem titled “Winter Horses”, which was filled with lovely simile and metaphor. As part of our interaction with the text, they needed to come up with another animal and season pairing, and use the model of the poem to create their own. I decided to be a good role model, and complete the writing along with them. I started by brainstorming my lists on the board. I was just working silently, not talking about my work, but they perked up from their own work and checked out what I was doing. Once the class was over, I promised that I would create my own poem and share it at our next meeting. (Yes, my list was comparing a fox to autumn… it changed as I worked… )
Then, of course, I forgot to take home my list of ideas. I’m a free verse poet, primarily, and I agonize over every single word, comma, and capital letter in a poem. So the lack of time to work on it made me crazy. I got to school on Monday and sat down to write. I jotted down some notes in the margin of my plan book. Phrases, ideas, scratch outs and arrows. Messy. I promised I’d do this, though, so I kept at it. As I worked I decided I wanted to use the line, “Winter is Coming”. If there are any Game of Thrones fans reading my post right now, you’ll know why I decided I had to switch my animal to a wolf. Thankfully, with only slight alterations, it worked. I typed up my poem just before I left for the day. Whew, done.

I arrived at work on Tuesday ready to tackle the biggest problem – a title. I mentioned that I agonize over every word, didn’t I? To my complete and utter horror, I discovered that I had not SAVED MY POEM! Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but I was freaking out. I took a breath, and tried to find where my computer “auto-saves” documents. It saves every random spreadsheet I start and forget to save, so why wouldn’t it have recovered this document? Nope, nada. I’d have to start from scratch. Well, from the notes I had made in my plan book. Tears welling up, I began again.

I completed it, playing around with the capitals , punctuation, and line spacing. Endless configuration possibilities lure me into trying different formats. Should this word be alone on a line? Where does that period belong? I’m still not sure I have it just the way I want it.

I shared it with the group on Tuesday afternoon. They were thrilled that I’d actually done the same assignment that they did, and I explained some of the process I described above. One suggested that I switch the word “moan” to “howl” to match up with my animal choice, and we discussed it. I told them I would consider it, and then make my final decision.

(As I’m typing this up right now, I still don’t have a title. This is a problem, because my students expect me to submit it to the poetry contest they are also entering. I need a title. Seriously.)

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