Rose season: Big projects

tall roses bloomingHow do you start? Where do you start?

These are my killer roses, my wild roses, my proof that Sleeping Beauty’s castle could easily be engulfed by roses. And it wouldn’t take 100 years. These have been here less than 15 years. They’ve been untended, because I wanted them to burgeon–and burgeon they did!

Some years, I get out and make a dent, cut them back. Some years, I don’t. I’ve got my mother’s pole-pruner now, which helps, but it’s still slow going. I can’t even reach the parts I want to thin. I’ve got years of dead wood to clip away (it looks like a haunted forest). And I don’t want to cut up the honeysuckle that vines through it all.

Sounds like working on a manuscript.

Yes, I love doing the full immersion project, the deep dive, but now the waters are bigger, deeper. Instead of writing a chapbook, I’m working on a full-length collection–but I’m trying to do it the same way: Compile all the poems, make a rough order, and then start revising and re-crafting the poems in the context of the manuscript. Clip away the dead wood, see where images in different poems are growing together, cut out, plant, transplant. All of this longhand, on paper–just taking notes. Then back to the computer, to incorporate those notes, where the real writing, the real work begins. Then repeat again.

All made thornier by the subject: grief. It’s the project I have to do and sometimes the writing I dread. I’ve managed to make a tiny start, like clipping a few stems. A lot left to look at, think about, reconsider, do.

But if I feel stuck or overwhelmed–and the weather holds–I can take a break and work on those roses.

I’ll ask again: How do you take yourself by the hand and start?

Reading: Gravesend, by Cole Swenson

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1 comment

  1. Jane Chang’s avatar

    This is a lovely start already, Joannie. Begin with the remembering, next to weeding, then on to nurturing. It’s quite a natural process.

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