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?

Rye diary: Day three

I left town for a week and came back to these fringes of green.

rye grass

Not very tall—and at first glance, not very exciting, But looking closer, I see some lovely reddish shades.

rye grass close up

Before I could fully appreciate this, I had to ascertain whether indeed the rye had germinated or whether this was just a new crop of the weeds I pull (or don’t). But I think this is the real deal. To be sure, I need to wait a little longer.

I’ve been waiting in my writing, setting poems aside, picking them up again, panicking because I might not have the most recent draft. Sometimes, the poems grow on me, and I see opportunities for nuance, for the subtle shadings. Sometimes, I grow tired of them, convinced that they are terrible. Time for waiting is running out, with just over a month before I turn in my thesis. But I can still get close to the ground of them, inspect their stems and blades, their rhythms and imagery (and I suspect that imagery is at the root of my worries). A garden is always in revision—something for me to keep in mind as I keep working at these poems.

As the calendar cruises toward National Poetry Month, what are you cultivating?

The end of one practice…

(Originally posted on Feb. 20, 2019. My apologies that comments were lost.)

Yesterday was the last day of my Lucie Brock-Broido Stay, Illusion practice. The idea was to sit down each day—at my desk, at the gym, on the bus, wherever—read a poem from Lucie’s book, choose a line, a fragment, an image, and write from or in response to it. I started on October 22. I did not show up daily, but I did show up. Yesterday was poem 65. And then a sadness that it was done.

Some of these drafts might become poems. A couple of them already have. One is in active revision. And many are pressed in the pages of my notebook. I’m hoping to get back to them, read and see which ones, or whether any, still ignite some spark worth nurturing.

What did I learn? This worked well for me. Each time, I’d write something. Even if I knew it wasn’t going to turn into anything else, I was writing. Even better, it gave me a chance to sit in active conversation with Brock-Broido’s poems again. My goal had been to choose not just compelling images but those that were difficult or uncomfortable—not the kinds of things that might naturally show up in my poems anyway. And that was the biggest challenge, to tug away from comfort’s gravity.

The end of one practice…the beginning of another.

I want to keep the momentum, to keep the practice going. And in this next round, I want to complicate the challenge, shift the choice by writing only from the first line, and then choosing 10 words to incorporate. But to further avoid bias, the word choices need to follow a pattern—like the first word of the first 10 lines, or the last word, or the first and last words of each stanza. I haven’t tried that kind of constraint before. And what if I get a bunch of articles or prepositions? It’s a learn-as-you-go choose-your-own-adventure, with a minimum of choosing. This morning, I took a new book off the shelf and started with the first poem. It did not go well in terms of stunning surprises, but it did go well in that I showed up. I practiced.

I would also benefit from getting into a revision practice, as I did in Poetry Month 2015. Harder, without that daily thrill of newness, but probably a better strategy for completing my thesis.

How about you? Have you been working or playing a poetry practice this year, or any other kind of practice?