manic monday: tuesday edition, with antidote for writer’s block

too soon to bloom

too soon to bloom

Happy Monday, Reader. On Tuesday. But it feels like Monday to me because it’s my kids’ first day back to school after the holidays. We had a wonderful, relaxing, low-key break. I confess, I woke this morning in a mix of glee and dread. Glee for a quiet house, more writing time. Dread for the general busy-ness of homework, horn practice, ballet, school newsletters, basketball, and (insert sound clip from Psycho here) Preparing Your Child for Middle School.

Then the peach tree taught me a little lesson. I looked out my window and saw that it’s blooming. Keep in mind, I’m a recovering Michigander, where a peach tree blooming in January is basically Armageddon. Sometimes I forget I’m in California. But even in California, I think a peach tree blooming in January is bad. My first (ridiculous, control-freak) thought was: I have to stop it! Feel free to laugh at me. Lesson #1 today: Control is not the answer. I’m trying to apply that to the general busy-ness of life, too.

Speaking of writer’s block, which we weren’t, and I’m not, but anyway did I just say I need to write less? See Lesson #1 above. I’m trusting the flow and churning out the drafts that come. For the next few weeks, I’m working with some po-friends on “Writer’s Block: An Antidote,” an exercise by Daniel Halpern in The Practice of Poetry (You know this book? If not, it’s a good one). It’s basically a list of 21 exercises; the writer is supposed to do one a day for 21 days, type up the effort, file it away and not revisit it until the 21 days are complete. Says Daniel Halpern: “If these exercises are to work, this procedure must be followed exactly.”

Which is where I bail! Because a procedure in which there is *no* flexibility is not part of my universe. Still, I’m sticking to it for the most part (varying, for example, the texts Halpern’s  exercises draw from, but not the exercises themselves) and today’s effort was to write a poem in the style of another poet.

I followed the rules and chose a poet from one of his two lists: Sylvia Plath. From her Collected (thick book, nice price), I read about 10 pages of poetry, then made a list of what I noticed:

Dark, primal language
Lots of similes
Lots of repetition
Lots of apostrophe
Lots of questions
Lots of eyes

I then wrote two drafts: one called “Poem at the Kitchen Door” and one whose title frightens me too much to share (repeat Psycho audio clip). There were some similes but more metaphors, some repetition, one instance of apostrophe, two questions (one per draft), two eyes (both in the same draft). The drafts do not sound one whit like Sylvia Plath.
I’m taking that as a good thing, since I am not her.

And now it’s off to the Geography Bee! I hope your new year is off to a good start. And I hope your peach tree is not blooming!

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