Virginia Hamilton Adair: Thresholds
David Whyte: The Well of Grief
Wendell Berry: I Go Among Trees and Sit Still
Derek Walcott: Love After Love
Jane Hirshfield: It Was Like This
I’m reading a book, an older book, called The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach. Each section has solid advice and some unusual approaches for working with words.
But the one section that really speaks to me is a chapter by Susan Snively called Waiting and Silence.” I’ve written before about what a hard time I have letting my work “sit.” I want to keep playing with it. But when I do, I often find I don’t keep a clear perspective about what is working. I’m too close to it.
The most exhilarating, and therefore treacherous, moment in a poem’s composition comes when the first draft is done. The poet, relieved of an emotional burden, exalted by self-expression, feels that the world should share the triumph. Under the spell of the word processor’s finished-looking print, she may believe that the poem is ready for instant fame. The greater the exaltation, the more foolish the behavior: some poets have even been known to phone their friends, offering spontaneous late-night declamations. It is sobering to realize, upon subsequent readings, that more work must be done.
These days, I try to write something (as I did yesterday about my grandfather’s death), and then I’ll let it sit for a while. When I come back to it, I bring a fresh perspective and new experiences to be able to give the work a going over.
Yesterday’s post has the word “draft” in the title, and I’m going to let it rest there. “A stage of waiting in the dark is essential,” she says.
(Yes, I recognize the irony of posting a draft in public–but as long as I don’t fiddle with it, I think I’m following her advice!)