Draft Process: The Sickly Marrow Defined

71ยบ ~ a beautiful breeze, no humidity to speak of, cloud cover mixed with sun, birdsong, sirens, and a barking dog heard through open windows

So, the iMac remains in the hospital. They’ve replicated the issue and are probing the innards to find out if it is worth repairing or if a new computer looms in the future. I apologize for the lack of links, italics, and images in the posts.

Yesterday, I finally had a chance to read A. Van Jordan’s M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A through from beginning to end, where I’ve only dipped in and out in the past. It’s a beautiful biography in verse about MacNolia Cox, who in 1936 was the first African American to make it to the final round of the National Spelling Bee. The book begins with a section on her adult life, riddled with difficulties and disappointments, and then goes back and covers 1936. Of course, after I finished the book, I realized that this year’s Spelling Bee had just ended. ๐Ÿ™‚

The reason I’m bringing it up here is because I learned something else about the sickly speaker series through reading the book. Not all of the poems in the book are from the voice or perspective of MacNolia Cox. Many are in the voice of her husband. What Jordan does to make the shifting voices clear is to provide a name at the top of the page in italics to alert the reader. While I’m not switching voices in my series, I found this an interesting tactic. Also, each section of Jordan’s book contains a bracket of dates that situate the reader. I’m wondering if that will work for the sickly speaker, only instead of years, I might use months. The book is shaping up to look like either two sections or four. It will definitely split into before the transfusion/transplant and after, but it might also split into seasons as well, as the procedure occurs at the end of winter.

I drafted another dictionary poem today for the series. This time I used the word “marrow” and drafted from the multiple definitions in my Shorter Oxford again. I had to manipulate this one a bit more as the entry wasn’t nearly as long as the one for “body.” It begins:

What lurks in the cavities of bones, a soft vascular
substance, in this patient-case, no longer vital

gone weak with fever and a leaching sweat.

It goes on in this couplet/single line pattern for 18 lines and relies on the repeated “What…” for the beginnning of the majority of sentences, with one in the middle that breaks the pattern. I used up the material of the definition after about line 12, but pushed on and am happy that I did, as I hit on something new: the perspective of the whitecoats who are fighting this unknown disease. The sickly speaker’s voice has been so powerful and the whitecoats such adversaries that I haven’t thought much about their view on the situation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on poems from their perspective, but it was interesting to see from a distance what they might be thinking. (This poem, as yesterday’s, is definitely a distant third person perspective.)

I knew I wanted to use the “…..Defined” pattern for the title, but in this case, I couldn’t come up with a phrase from the poems that included “marrow” in a way that worked. So, I’ve settled on “The Sickly Marrow Defined” but I’m not thrilled with that. It may change along the way.

Posted by Sandy Longhorn

3 comments

Yay! Look at you and all the poems you're drafting! I've really enjoyed reading about your sickly speaker. Maybe she and the mail order bride should get together for coffee sometime — they might learn something from one another ๐Ÿ™‚

Love the idea of dictionary poems a la Traci Brimhall — might have to give that a try myself

I love seeing how your reading entwines with your writing.

Sandy Longhorn

Oh Molly, I can't wait until the Mail Order Bride meets the Sickly Speaker!

Kathleen, it's gotten more and more entwined lately. ๐Ÿ™‚