what would Laura Kasischke do?

This is one of my handy-dandy revising tools. I got the idea from my po-friend C-1. I do not know if Laura Kasischke would use one, but I find it a great tool for focusing the eye and mind on each and every line of a draft.

Reader, yesterday was pure bliss — cool and rainy, and a wide-open day for writing, the first in a few weeks.

My plan was to draft, which I did, and was astounded and mildly unnerved by the Mail Order Bride showing her face again (okay, scratch that “pure” before bliss above).

Apparently, she would like to explain herself to her children. Apparently, she would like them to know,

I am bent toward broken. Am roof, the cure
for heavy weather, the fastened

layers of limb and skin shingling
above your heads in the gabled slant

of prayer.

Sigh. I kind of thought the  Mail Order Bride and I were done. We’ll see. I’m not convinced this draft is necessary, but I’m willing to entertain the possibility. Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve lost my drafting mojo a little bit — or maybe I’m in that lull-time between an old process and the emergence of a new one. More on this as it unfolds.

After the MOB finished with me (and her shingles, and Andromeda, also Andromeda’s chains, clinking, and also the dentist’s office for heaven’s sake — she covered a lot of ground in that draft) I moved on to revision.

[I pause here to remind myself  that I used to be able to draft like mad and couldn’t revise worth a whit. I pause to remind myself that now I’m ever so comfortable in a revision stage, which is a sign of progress. I urge you to pause here and think of all the progress you’ve made in your life and/or your writing life — sometimes it’s way too easy to gloss over all the ground we’ve gained along the way.]

I’ve been working on these poems that I call Nocturnes. Only because they seem to hold the language that arrives at night in the liminal stages between sleep and waking — a barely-language, with mixed up clauses and unfinished thoughts.

Anyway, I worked on revising them yesterday, and as I worked I kept asking myself: What would Laura Kasischke do (I wrote in this post about reading her book Space, in Chains)? So I thought I’d tell you what Laura Kasischke would do, in case her awesome moves might help you in your own work.

Ahem. What Laura Kasischke Would Do by Molly Spencer:

  • She would dare to write a whole book about death (But I wouldn’t).
  • She would write in riddles. And title all the riddle poems “Riddle.”
  • She would set her awesome transitions off with white space.
  • Which reminds me, she would be brave enough not to rely on form or even line lengths for safety (I confess, I often hide in couplets. Because they are so beautiful. And they feel so safe). She would make a little room of words (okay, okay, a stanza) for every group of words that needed its own little room. Couplets be damned.
  • She would embrace the irregular use of punctuation and rely on line and white space to pace her poems. She would only use punctuation if she really needed it. She would not care if some people said, “You either have to use it or not use it — none of this both/and crap.”
  • She would let the reader into her mind, show the reader how her mind works.
  • She would use incomplete clauses with impunity.
  • She would often wait until very late in the poem to bring in the speaker and/or other actors. They would have a very light touch.
  • She would not be afraid to use very disparate images in the same poem, e.g., the sun, tongues, flames, foxes, the hangman, a doorstep, “cents and dollars” (all from her poem, “Rain”).

So I guess what I’m saying is that Laura Kasischke would be gutsy, which she can afford to be because she does it so well. Maybe she would encourage all of us to be gutsy — in poetry and in life — and to do it well.

I’m thinking of making a little sign to hang above my desk amidst all the other little signs hanging above my desk: “What would Laura Kasischke do?”. I think it would help me to take more risks, and gently remind me that you can do almost anything if you do it well enough.

And now — it’s minumum day. I know, I know, again!, I can’t believe it either. Any minute now, my kids will come through the door asking why I didn’t meet them at school for dismissal, everyone else’s mom does. I’ll just tell them I was working. They seem to accept that as a legitimate reason, which helps me accept it, too :).

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for the roundup!

8 thoughts on “what would Laura Kasischke do?

    • Oh, Alice, she’s so good! I’m sure Micawber’s can get her stuff in for you.

      Our babysitter (age 16) who grew up one street over from us found out yesterday that our kids walk to school alone most days. She was horrified. 🙂

  1. Oh my goodness…I love “I hide in couplets.” I also want to “use incomplete clauses with impunity”! So much to learn from you and LK!
    Thanks for this! And happy drafting…er…revising…er whatever comes next!

  2. I was blown away the first time I read that book too. I am re-reading it now in bits and pieces, and every now and then (It’s in the car– I do lots of waiting for children). But I think I told you that. What I didn’t tell you is that I think she is very gutsy too. And you’re right– we could learn from that. I love the way you’ve summed up her gutsy-ness too.

    • I often need a kick in the pants to be gutsy. Reading Laura K. helped kick me toward bringing a risky poem to my workshop group last night. I love learning from other poets — about poetry and life!

      • That’s awesome!! I trust it was well received!

        I’ve been *trying* to take more risks lately too– your post came at the exact right time for me. The trick I’m finding, is to sync the form (or lack of form, if you know what I mean) and content just right. It seems to be a fine balance.

        I agree, I love learning from other poets– and poets who are also awesome bloggers and moms! 😉 Thanks!

  3. Pingback: friday roundup: open me carefully, another right question, and ‘to be twinned like this’ | the stanza

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