Rye diary: Days eight, nine, and ten

As I walk past the rye, sometimes I have to stop and just watch it. The smallest breeze makes it sway, which is one reason it’s so hard to take pictures that aren’t blurry.

This morning, a mizzling rain falls, but I’ll share photos from some earlier days. I’ve wanted to draw grand, insightful parallels to writing, but lately the rye has felt more like a meditation, a graceful and ragged silence.

Day eight:

rye with bloom and expanding spikelets

This was last Sunday, June 16. See how the bristles are spreading? I was thinking of a parallel with writing, how to grow in my work, I need to open up. It’s true, but it also sounds cliche. But the rye is beautiful in a tattered way.

Day nine:

Tuesday, June 18. An early morning rain left the rye jeweled. It’s so tall and slender, I imagine that a really hard rain could take it out. So on my way to work, I stop to capture this one picture. I’ve been doing a little research, and I learned that, for soil benefits, you’re supposed to till it under much earlier. But this sowing was more for beauty.

Day 10:

rye patch

Thursday, June 20. Another blurry picture. I’ve focused (!) a lot on the seed heads. Sometimes I like to look at the whole patch, down into the slender forest of it.

Rye diary: Day seven

A lot has been changing, and I have not been fast enough with my camera. You can see that the winter rye has grown taller.

backyard with rye patch

The seed heads grow larger and more defined.

close up of rye seed head

This is why I planted the rye in the first place—for these jewels. And now they’re starting to bloom!

Still scraggly looking, but it’s a work in progress.

On day five of the rye diary, I talked about free writes—how all the writing I’ve been doing in my notebook feels like a scraggly patch, leggy and with nothing standing out.

The seed heads beginning to develop made me think of work, or more exactly, energy. The energy it takes to make these intricate structures, and the work I need to put in to make a few notes or a free write into a first draft—even a rough first draft—of a poem. This past week, I started that work.

My writing group was going to meet, and I wanted to have something to bring, at least a reasonable facsimile of that rough draft. I took a little time away from homework for poem work—going over some of those earlier writings, grouping them together, splitting them apart again, pulling out lines or paragraphs, going back, starting over, trying to make two or three poems into one, going back again, until I thought I had one idea I could work with.

Emphasis on “work,” because I realized how much I needed that, how easy it is for me to lose confidence when I’m not in the thick of it. The meeting was later postponed, but I’m grateful to have a poem started, grateful for the reminder that immersion and attention nurture the writing, and grateful for this funny little patch of winter rye.

What do you do when you feel rusty or fallow? How do you start on a poem?

Rye diary: Day six!

grass head forming on winter rye
It’s blurry, but you can pretend that you can see the grass head beginning to form.

Some heat, some rain, and the magic is happening—for the rye, if not yet for the writing right now.

Rye diary: Day five

The winter rye continues to grow, and I continue to do my (daily-ish) writing practice.

I now have many free writes. They make me think of this patch of green stalks not yet ready to mature. I worry that I’ve forgotten how to take the raw, rough, wild stuff and cultivate it into a poem. This is not a new anxiety. I can keep writing, until the day when that writing compels me to complete it, guide or follow it into a form to be shared. Or I can, in time, turn all that writing over, trust that it’s down in the good ground of my mind and will help the next ideas prosper.

In the meantime, there is much to read between now and my graduation from Rainier Writing Workshop in August. Much to read, and I revel in it.

(If this reading is a procrastination technique, it’s a good one!)

How about you? Do you ever feel lost in an overgrown patch and can’t see your way through to a poem?

Rye diary: Day four

The grass I grow, and the grass I need to mow

Here’s wishing you a happy May Day and hoping that you enjoyed a marvelous Poetry Month.

In the photo, you can make out a couple of stones. Those make the line between the lawn’s lush green abundance and the scraggly patch of winter rye. Okay, some lawn grass is mixed in between the rye and the irises. But it’s had me thinking about what we cut and what we keep, about censoring and not censoring, about how we tend our writing. Even about where I’m putting my energy.

In thinking about writing, I’m seeing the two kinds of grasses not as separate things but as the different attentions required. There’s letting the creative rush run over, there’s perhaps (for me, always) the need to trim, to shape, and there’s the need to tend, to wait patiently.

After three years of writing, trimming, waiting, and tending, I’ve turned in my creative thesis for my MFA. Now, I’m trying to write new work, send some of that MFA work into the world, and maybe turn some of my attention to the many (many!) poems that didn’t fit into the thesis.

How about you? Is spring energizing your writing? Are you waiting? Digging in the dirt? Putting on the final pruning touches?