Work in Progress: An Experiment

IMG_1396I want to try something a little different (for me, anyway; and, hopefully, for you too).  It may turn out to be too much like watching sausage get made, and if that is the case, I will abandon the idea, but first let me tell you what prompted it.  During the last few months, I have met people who asked me good questions about writing poetry.  When I get into such conversations, often, I  steer the conversation to the subject of reading poetry.  I’m not much into deconstruction, and certainly not as far as my own work is concerned.  I like talking to other writers and poets about their respective processes, but I don’t know what that sounds like to non-writers.  There is difference and there is sameness in what writers do.  What about readers?  And what about the readers or would-be readers of poetry? I a gree with Kathryn Byer, North Carolina’s Poet Laureate, who said in the interview I conducted of her in the Winter 2006/2007 issue of Main Street Rag,  that if poetry is taught as if it is a problem to be solved, that way of coming to a poem stays with students, and that isn’t a good thing.  I wish everyone could approach reading a poem as if that poem were simply a story to be told, a secret to be whispered, a lover to be held or one which is willing to  hold the reader.  Or, maybe it’s a lit fuse – it could be, you know.

I have seen poets and writers share their notes on their work before, so this series of posts that I am proposing won’t be that much of a departure.  In this case, however, I am going to share my notes as I go.  I thought I would take Six Years of Dreaming to completion right here on this site.  Poems are like plates of food – sometimes it’s simple fare, and sometimes the dish is complex, with many ingredients and flavors – perhaps so rich or heavy that you can’t possibly finish it in one sitting.  I think Six Years of Dreaming has the right recipe for this endeavor – not too light, not too heavy, but who knows?  It could leave a bad taste in our respective mouths!  If so, we can always call for take out – the poetry of Mary Oliver or Jane Kenyon or Jennifer K. Sweeney, perhaps.  There are so many options!  Down home, local cooking or international cuisine – it will just depend on what we’re in the mood for!

I usually have help with my poems (I would write something here about “sous chefs,” but that would just be too much).  Anyway, I know some nice people with red pens who will cut what I won’t, and can see what I don’t.  I hope they will stop by and offer their opinions.  I welcome all of your comments as we go through the process.

With that I give you the first draft of Six Years of Dreaming, and I already see things I’m ready to change, but I’ll wait for you.  Try not to be too shocked at either my use of expletives or the poem’s current general shortcomings – first drafts are often this bad!  I hope you will give me some credit for my bravery!

Six Years of Dreaming
(The average person will spend six years dreaming over the course of his or her lifetime)

It is hopeless:
Habit is such an evil
interloper and I am not given
to rebellion as I once was.
I have spent so much longer
on dreams
than the average time already,
wasting good sleep on bad dreams
and bruising good dreams by refusing
sleep. Sleep is a timid, undemanding lover who thinks
I am frigid and unyielding. Say it, then.
Or just take me
goddam you.

Habit, on the other hand, finds me quite pliable.
I yearn for a new way
and new light, but the confusion – how
does light fit in to a life of dark
and dreaming?
I wish myself somehow different
and maybe more given to rebellion
maybe less. Whatever I need
to break up
with my secrets.

Sleep has come to do an intervention
bringing with him
common sense, conventional wisdom
intuition … history. All the self-righteous
and smug know-it-alls.
Naturally, I am repulsed.

Habit is the most bothersome
of my secret lovers because
I cannot refuse him. He comes with wine
and music, leisure and temptations
mundane, predictable and irresistible.
I tell him I am tired of him
He cannot get enough of me.

I have borne the children
of both gentle sleep and habit.
It is impossible to tell the legitimate issue
from the bastards.

4 thoughts on “Work in Progress: An Experiment

  1. Gilda

    Great poem. Of course, I’m pulled in by the dreaming imagery, title & references. I love the metaphor of the “lover” in the poem. Very seductive. And I wonder if you might want to get the image of a lover in at the beginning. Interloper is a great word, but maybe not “seductive” enough for the rest of the poem. A thought to ponder.

  2. suzanneleitner

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I want to introduce the competing suitors, as such, in the very beginning. I think the first couple of lines were the mental warm up – placing the speaker in the poem … which hardly ever needs to be part of the poem (though it is part of the process)). Thanks, Gilda. Second draft will be up soon.

  3. Gilda

    Thought they were mental warm-ups and that’s important too or you wouldn’t have the rest of it. But the idea of “competing suitors, ” ooooh I’m intrigued.

  4. suzanneleitner

    Thank you, Gil, for your good help. The second draft is up in a new post! Let me know what you think.

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