January 24, 2011

Fibonacci Sequence Poetry -- The Process 1

I've done 23 of these poems now and want to reflect a bit on what's happening as I work.

A.   First, I'm losing my ability to count.  I generally notice an idea for a poem early in the day and allow time for it to marinate before sitting down at the laptop circa midnight to get the thing finished and posted.  By then, I'm working on the computer rather than with pencil and paper, and things move fast as I edit and count and recount and delete three phrases and count again and write a stronger finishing line or two and then count some more and then realize the problem was six lines earlier and revise again and then count one more time.  It's that final "count one more time" that gets me.  If I'm concentrating very hard on getting the correct number of words in the last line, as in 365.22, I might (and did) overlook the extra two words I slid into the penultimate line.  One of my daughters (and some other folks, I'm sure) count the words in each line to be sure they're accurate.  Jennifer, though, is the person who comments about them, which lets me make corrections.  It's the joy of her life: I believe her blood gets to pumping and she starts smiling before she even turns her computer on.  Thus I conclude that I'm contributing to the sum total of happiness in the world.  No, no, you don't have to thank me.  It's part of my job.

B.  The dailiness is crucial.  It recreates in me a writer's brain, always alert, always forming introductions, always calculating the word count for the first few lines.  It's also given me greater clarification on choosing strong language.  No matter how much I like an idea I'm sorting through, I resist writing a piece that begins
"1    Sometimes
1    a                "

You might get away with it in an essay, but in this form those words are wasteful starting points.  I want to catch you immediately and, as a famous director said, "I don't [effing] want you looking away."  In the example above, there's nothing for you to latch on to or hold on to.  It's a disservice to you as reader, or maybe disrespectful.  I'm not willing to waste your time.  Or mine.

C.  It's pleasant to have a location for the ongoing conversations I have with myself, Michael, the dogs, the children and grandchildren, random strangers, newspaper articles, television reports, and commercials.  And I'm speaking only contemporaneously.  I have a lifetime full of such conversations, articles, reports, and commercials to draw on.  The trouble with a brain like a sponge is that I may not be able to remember to take my meds first thing in the morning (because it's trivial in the world of the mind), but I have vivid memories, with color and conversation, from childhood on.  It's good to have a place to put them, tuck them in, and walk away for now.

D.  It is, I think, the same and quite different from writing a sonnet a day.  The sonnet makes more demands -- number of lines per stanza, number of syllables per line -- which is (stay with me here) easier.  It's the  "lookin' back and longin' for/the freedom of my chains" song all over again.  Research has shown that too many choices paralyze us, whether it be laundry soap or spaghetti sauce or potential words in a line.  The more rigid the structure, the fewer the choices. To put it another way, the wider the playing field, the more likely the ball will get lost in the weeds, or the woods. Several times I've found myself beginning in one place and making dogleg turns to get somewhere else I hadn't considered.  And that's where the good stuff waits.


rusvw said...

How right you are, it recreating a writer's brain...I've found the same thing in my first 23 days, and I'm constantly seeing scenes all day that are writing themselves out as stories in my head.
thanks for sharing the process, and keep up the writing; we're in it for the long haul!

Mary said...

Yes, indeed, we are. That's the fun part. Taking the time to do this project will serve me forever.