Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Finding a Source

I love a good, serendipitous moment. The twenty dollar bill found in a pocket just when you need extra cash. An old friend calling the day after she appeared in a dream. That book you've always wanted appearing out of nowhere on a card table at a garage sale in the suburbs. For fifty cents.

Today, when I wasn't looking for it, I found the perfect inspiration for this week's workshop. Mairi's blog, featured on Poets Who Blog, is a cool, thoughtful project, using quotes from the Times Literary Supplement as jumping off points for lucid poems that take interesting metaphorical leaps from the source text.

Of course, the source text can be anything: a favorite book from childhood, a tabloid, a website, song lyrics, a car repair manual, a credit card contract...the weirder, the better. For my long series, "City Laments," I took passages from the epic poem "Lament for Urim" as starting points for poems lamenting the flooding of New Orleans.

Lament for White Lions

Bau has abandoned Iri-kug and has let the breezes haunt her sheepfold. She has abandoned her flooded chamber and has let the breezes haunt her sheepfold... The protective goddess of the holy house has abandoned it and has let the breezes haunt her sheepfold.          

                The Lament for Urim

White lions you are not mine. You were once

but I sped up, passed you in the mist.


That machine to force hard ground

from swamp, that ten-foot spider leg,

I’d wake up with the feel of it across my face:

scuttle, drag.


Gunshots in the morning. Before coffee.

Before the quiet love of the couple upstairs,

reluctant to wake the baby.


I smiled round-cheeked at the flat hand of water.

Even then everything was dead, the woman running

in a red bathing suit, termites


crawling down my shirt, between my breasts.

A brown cloud against the streetlight

forced from the ground.

Was I stuck, dying, in the new spring night?


A mouth closed over my head.

Funereal air between their wings.


I abandoned you. I can do nothing here

but watch the water line rise to your curled paw.

But whatever the source, it should be the same for all poems. That way, you create a link, however oblique, between them. What will your source text be? Where will your metaphorical leaps take you?

"Lament for White Lions" was originally published in Perpetual Care, Elixir Press, 2009.


Mairi said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, and for mentioning me in the context of your own great project. I can see it would make for an interesting workshop exercise. I like the use of sentence fragments here, they way they convey both urgency and disconnection, and I particularly like the image of 'the flat hand of water.'
I keep waiting for someone to write a series of Jaberwock type poems based on the word verifications at the bottom of everyone's comment page. The one I have for this comment is great. What do you suppose 'sablicid' would mean if it meant something?

Katie Cappello said...

It's funny you mention those fake words, because as I was leaving your comment, I was wondering what "pappling" could be...

The Storialist said...

Great post! My project's jumping off point is the daily photo(s) posted by The Sartorialist...I also am a fan of Mairi's work, and weirdly, have often thought of word verifications and their weird sounds...

Unfulem! (That means "thank you" in a dead language)