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Friday, December 6, 2013

Channeling Mary Ruefle


I don't know which I like more - first drafts, endlessly tinkering through draft after draft, or the feeling when you know (or pretty much know) you can send a poem out into the world.

Let me share a little secret. "Despite Nagging Malfunctions," which goes live today at The Superstition Review, began in a little room called The Stellar's Jay Suite at the Kangaroo House Bed & Breakfast in East Sound, Washington. I was there as a resident for Artsmith last February, spending a fabulous week, mostly on a day bed with a notebook in my lap and a stack of books at my side, researching everything from typhus to Saturn (hmmm, why was I researching typhus? I can no longer recall, but there it is, scrawled in my notebook: "highly contagious caused by bacteria in lice. 10-40% chance of dying. Between 1918-1922, typhus killed three million").

But I digress.

To begin "Despite Nagging Malfunctions," I first had to find out that Voyager 2 , well, "despite nagging malfunctions"(according to an archived 1977 New York Times article), launched in September of 1977.

I also had to come up with a list of statements from various poems by Mary Reufle, including:

I was given [concrete gift] ...

I smelled ...

I discovered ...

I fell in love with ...

My mother ...

My father ...

I learned ...

One morning ...

I saw ... [image of animal]

State a piece of advice. Dismiss or muse on it. Ask a question.

Go back to talking about the same animal.

Don't be [animal].

In other words, I made myself a little poem draft road map.

It wouldn't be the first time someone worked from a blueprint, would it?

I hope you enjoy the completed version. It was a fun poem to write, especially gratifying to get Tycho Brahe's prosthetic nose into a poem, and some Emily Post wisdom.