Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Throw Them Out

So yesterday I was throwing out drafts of poems, and not sonnets or any other fixed form, either. Straight up poems. The kind I usually write.

It was fun. I've read poetry and written at it for so long now that I can almost never fool myself. Those opening lines really were irremediably stupid and loose, the similes strained, the endings predictable. The prognosis? Hopeless.

I'm very tender with these failures, but I don't do what some of my poet-friends do, which is save the best parts. They claim that sometimes, anyway, these scraps come together and make a kind of quilt. Maybe, but it's likely my scraps would come together and look like Viggo Mortensen's pants in "The Road."

What a blessing, really, to be able to spend four or five hours afloat in the medium of my choice. Did I fail? In a way; the poems will never amount to much. Was I successful? Sure, because just by showing up there was always the chance language would step forward and take me with it as it lifted off and landed far from this city or any other city. Somewhere, if I was lucky, absolutely angelesque.

70 and sunny after 2 days of rain. Buddy, as usual, prowling around and playing Lord of the Carpet.



  1. Ron--have you ever thrown out a novel? I confess there's always the temptation to cannibalize the "failed" ones. But now that I have the image of Viggo's pants firmly seeded, perhaps I can resist.

  2. A decade or so ago, in a fit of humiliation, I threw away all the poetry I wrote in high school, but now I wish I had it back as a memorial to my former emo self, who was so deep! So sensitive! At least that's what the poems said.

  3. I've struggled this semester to write the last chapters of my novel. It seemed that every new chapter required at least two or three false starts--sometimes five or more pages that seemed promising at first, then took a wrong turn down a dead end. More often than not, the trick was in finding the right place to start.

    Unlike Ron, I don't get any satisfaction from throwing those away. I have a sizable collection of "out takes," so labeled, in my computer. I've never used any of them. Maybe someday the Kerlan will want them. We can only hope. :-)

  4. I have absolutely thrown away a ms. I don't like the idea of harvesting body parts, anyway. And, if I remember correctly, Frankenstein's monster was a kind of walking pastiche that liked cigars but was afraid of fire. Call me crazy, but I don't want to end up with a novel that smokes cigars.

  5. I'll post this tangential comment here b/c Ron mentioned "sonnets" and the original conversation about writing a sonnet-a-day for a sustained period of time began so long ago in internet time. Here's a cool article about how focused training, over a period of time, produces new growth in brain connections. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09344/1019898-115.stm They use examples of children learning to read and adults learning to juggle, but the lessons are transferrable to writing.