blackbirdonline journalSpring 2009  Vol. 8  No. 1


Anna Journey | Because Everyone Needs A Little Thanatos

In order to avoid bloviating abstractly about my writing process, I dug up a few drafts—from my initial handwritten scrawls to the final typed version—to see if I might describe how I write poems in a tangible way.

 Initial notes for poem and word/image clusters.

My initial notes for a poem look more like spiders or black chain-link than a poem. At this beginning stage I’m messy. I’m I-haven’t-swept-my-hardwood-floors-in-a-month messy. I’m crazy-arrows-and-little-spokey-stars-on-the-loose. At this point, there’s no editor-angel (devil?) perched on my shoulder hissing, “Goddamn, that’s a cheesy floral image,” or “Girl, you just ripped off So-and-So with that title’s wonky syntax.” These word and image clusters are as free to be as sloppily ridiculous, as ill conceived, or as apt as they happen to be.

Early handwritten draft

 Early handwritten draft.

Okay, now things are beginning to pick up. I’ve found an entry point: a couple of tentative titles and a first line or two into the poem’s world. Sometimes this gearing-up—this focusing and streamlining of word/image clusters—requires scribbling out other less promising attempts. Sometimes a scribble is important in order to isolate which images and actions resonate and which ones need to go the hell away.

Later typed draft
Later typed draft

 Later typed draft.

The editor-angel-devil is perched on my shoulder for this draft. Punch up those flabby verbs. Nix those convoluted lines and present the imagery and action with utmost clarity. In my pajamas, I say professorial things to myself like, “Clarity is never a vice.” I scribble out whole passages and rewrite them. I think the long title is too “explainy.” I decide to chop it down since the tooth fairy pillow is already wacky enough. I listen for clunky rhythms and add a spondee toward the end to rough things up. I decide that having an overtly severed thumb-tip in the poem is probably too yucky.

Final manuscript draft
Final manuscript draft

 Final manuscript draft.

Finished…for now.

Home office with Jellybean in the foreground

  Home office with Jellybean in the foreground.

Jellybean: the half-psychotic Siamese mix with a gift for stepping on drafts of poems. Because everyone needs a little Thanatos in her writing process.  end

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