The other poetry project
I’ve got poems running all this week at No Tell Motel, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, but they look nothing like the ones from A Witness in Exile. And I don’t know if they’ll end up looking like anything I do from here on out. But I want to talk a little about where they came from and how they fit into a larger project I did last year.
It’s last spring, opening day of the baseball season, and I’m doing the poem-a-day project for National Poetry Month, using the prompts Robert Lee Brewer provided at Poetic Asides. His prompt for that day was to write a “TMI” poem. But most of the poems I write delve into my personal life, often to an uncomfortable degree, and I didn’t want to do more of those. I was stuck for a while.
I’d been reading a lot about the negative effects of multitasking on everything from mood swings to short term memory loss, and as I stared at my computer screen, with twitter notifications going off and email alerts dinging, Facebook updating and headlines scrolling down an RSS feed, all this combined with the sound of a baseball game in my headphones while an episode of Star Trek: Voyager played on the tv (Amy was watching it) and our cats begging begging for attention–well, you get the sense of chaos on some level, I hope.
So I started grabbing text from all of these sources and dumped it into a Word file. It started to mount up pretty quickly, and it didn’t make sense and I quickly discovered I was getting all of these funny potential combinations of words and phrases that wouldn’t naturally occur next to each other. When the inning ended, and the announcers went to commercial break, I stopped to see what I had. I toyed with a word here and there, but mostly just fixed typos and cut extraneous articles or conjunctions, then minimized it and went back to what I’d been doing before.
Later that day, as I was talking to Amy about it, I decided I wanted to do more of these. I had no idea where they were going, but I knew I wanted to structure them in some way, so I went back to my computer and sketched out some rules for myself. I would do one for every game that the Chicago Cubs played. The point in the game when I would do this was determined by the rest of my schedule. I wouldn’t revise them except to edit them for typos, and I wouldn’t title them except by the current record the Cubs had at the time. And I would do this with no expectation of ever publishing them. It was a project for me.
That last one changed as the project started to take shape. I came to understand as it grew that I was going to have a book-length collection here, if I managed to hold fast to completing the season, and I did. In fact, the final poem is of an entire game, which did serious damage to my psyche by the time it was over.
The five poems at No Tell Motel this week are the first individual pieces to be published, and I want to thank the editors there for being open to the project. And now I’m shopping the whole thing to publishers. Anyone interested?