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?

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?