Saturday, February 25, 2006

Working Method

k: i have a question. how long does it take you to compose a poem? do you just sit down and the words fall out of your fingers onto the keys? do you compose on computer? have you ever written your poems in a book or just on loose paper or even a type writer?

for me, well, i have used a type writer but i get far too distracted by the texture of the paper and ink to really give a damn about the words. i have this one awesomely wonderfuly epic new world prose poem that i wrote an extra long green sheet of paper on a type writer; everything else i've ever done on the type writer is rubish.

these days, since about around the time i got married, i've been composing primarily on computer. those hathaway poems about being cat... that was me waiting for our ride to pick us up and drop us at the bus station on our way to england. i had my ex-library book copy of whatever that collection is called and i was reading and i had my pen in my mouth, my coat on, ready to shoot out the door, but wanting to lie there half in the hallway, stretching to try to soak up every ray of sunlight that shown through the window of our living room in that moment. it was radiant, warm and ... oh how i wanted to be a cat right then. to stretch four limbs to their limits and purr. those poems, i composed on paper, in my note book (i still keep a notebook and try to hand write all my poems into it even when i compose on the computer).

since i was 14 i've written in composition note books (you know, those cheap ones with the black and white blotchy printed covers). it feels so good to catch them in the corner of my eye when i go by them all neatly tucked into a shelf, to see a tangible history of my poetry, the good and the awful. i wish i wrote more in them these days. at their epoch it took merely 5 months to fill one. now it takes more like a year.
ryan used to read through them. now he reads my blog, so there isn't as much need.

for me, for composition, i'm afraid that there's far more thought in the process of creation than is left to the reader's eye. you imagine a poem like that bloody nose one would flow out as if it were there along and i merely uncovered it? i wish such were true. but really, most of my trade is covering up the evidence of any seams.

at times, poems come to me. morning child came to me, at least at the begining. that felt so good to write.

this poem... i know i had the idea in my .... wait. do you want to hear this? should i really tell you how a poem like that is born? or do you want me to leave it?

i want to tell you, because i feel like i have to justify all the praise you've been lavishing on me recently. it's unusual for the poet in me to be given so much attention and affection. she's not used to it.

but i don't want to tell you unless you want to hear it. why ruin it for you?

do your poems come to you? they must. they do, don't they? i wish they'd come to you more often :) though you can't always force a poem, i know this all too well (yet i persist in my efforts to do so).

a: as much as I don't want to spoil the magic, yes, of course I do want to know. I have to say though that I was surprised to read that you're more of a typer, that you tend to write more on the computer. I guess it's because I knew how attentive you are to paper... But it was so cute to read about those notebooks (maybe it's because it fit my construct of you more). I tend to write on my plainest journal book, by pencil (never pen; I just love the softness of pencil, it's smudginess, its non-finality). I have all these fancy sketch books, but I almost always I write on one plain brown one that has "Journal" embossed on it. Well, in reality I guess I start writing in my head: usually either at the end of a day, when I am tired and more vulnerable and receptive, or while out with Wojtek, either in the silence, or he'd be yapping about work, and I'd drift off. Or driving to work in the morning (like "Seasons"). It usually just starts as a sentence or two. And then sometimes a couple more. And sometimes even more. And I start repeating them to myself in my head so I won't forget them. Sometimes I'd type them on my cell phone so I won't lose them (like the beginning of "Generations", that was behind the art museum, the one with the Rocky steps, while walking with Wojtek by the river). And then when I start writing them down, I'm more deliberate about the rest. Sometimes the first few lines change slightly. But I don't go back and forth that much. I do reread and change a words or two here and there. But no major reconstruction typically. Except perhaps a while later, as in several months (as in "Life on a Beautiful Day"): I'd be rereading some old stuff and cringing, and then I chop off... I don't know, maybe I just never learned the discipline. But that's also the way I work in architecture. I believe in a few iterations, but not too many. I do believe in being faithful to the beginning. If it veers too much, it becomes something else.

k: i loved reading how you come up with a poem. i loved reading about how you start writing in your head, especailly. i've done a lot of workshoping (at university and online) so i've been exposed to a lot of unpolished work, some of which reveals the process of that poet. reading what you wrote about how you come up with a poem was so different though. i don't know that i've ever had the opportunity to learn that about another poet. bizzarly i could have easily mistook the desciption of your process for someone's description of my process; although, i've never typed lines of poetry into my cell phone. i tend, instead, to scribble words on recipts or business cards or anything else that a pen will score.

your construct of me is interesting. general perception as generated through this sort of email converstaion is interesting to me. having talked to ryan for 2 years before we actually met in person, i had this image of him in my mind that was built on a few pictures, even fewer phone calls, and lots and lots of typed emails and chat conversations. i was gobbsmacked to see him walk through the airport gate and realize that i was spot on in my perception of him. i was so lucky too. at the point we met i was so in love with my idea of who this ryan was that if he wasn't that ryan, i don't know what would have come of it all. lucky me though, he was everything and more (and still is).

i do write on paper. like i said, i like to hand write my poems even after they've been composed on a screen. i think i write more on computer now though because of the blog and because... nothing here is perminant. i can write and rewrite and erase and type over. i suppose you could do the same with pencil. the thing about typing and my poetry is that i don't get distracted by the shape of a letter, by the texture of the ink or the paper. when i write i tend to lose focus. i'll start looking more at the way the ring on my finger rubs up against the pen or get obsessed over why i do a straight tail on a y and a swirly one on a g. also, when i'm at work, i can stand here at the computer typing away and everyone thinks i'm working. i'll have to bring my latest book with me in march (it'll have a bit more ink on its pages by then i hope) for you to have a look through.


Brian Boutwell said...

I'm a wordprocessor poet.

Death to pen and pad.

katy said...

i'm almost ashamed to say... but i've been composing in the blogger-editor lately. straight on the blog. it's not healthy.

the lower take, at least, was composed in pencil. that poem felt good to write.

arch.memory said...

There's nothing to be ashamed of about that; why do you think it's not healthy?

katy said...

it's not healthy for my sanity i suppose. there are a few too many poems for which i have no back up. if the internet died, or blogger, or just my blog... some of my poems would die with it.