Process Notes: The Dolorist Confesses

83º at almost noon ~ no heat index! window open, cicadas doing their thing, home construction noises in the background, the sun delightful & no threat

With lots of busy work under my belt, work for the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference mostly, but also some recording of rejections from recent poem submissions, followed by sending out the poems anew, I have turned back to a focus on writing new poems. Lately, I’ve gotten back into the habit of walking, perhaps the writer’s best physical support system. All through history, in both the West and the East, great writers have recorded the connection between walking and writing, and I’ve seen that connection at work in my own past many times. It’s great to be returning to an activity that sparks new poems. (I should note that the spark only works for me if I’m walking without listening to any kind of music, NPR, or audio books. It works when I simply walk and observe, listening to the world around me.)

Because of this recent return to walking, I’ve had several lines rattling around in my head. I knew these lines were the beginning of a political poem, one that, again, records just how exhausting it is to be woke. However, once I put the lines down in my journal and then in the computer, I knew the poem wasn’t finished. It hadn’t accrued that critical mass necessary for survival. This time, I turned to a trusted friend and sent the “wee draft” for a diagnosis. Said friend hit the nail on the head and gave me awesome advice for coming back to the poem in the future. Thanks, friend!

In the meantime, with those lines out of my head and off in the world, I started re-reading (Laynie Browne’s The Scented Fox) and word-gathering. Normally, this sparks lines to form. Instead, it sparked me to remember a thought I’d had while walking this morning. I was thinking about a letter that I needed to write and about how I went into a minor depression at the beginning of the summer, a depression I’m working myself out of thanks, in part, to walking. So, I set down the lines I’d imagined including in the letter.

It wasn’t a lack of funds that kept me
but a lack of fortitude, of fiber.

The poem evolved in couplets today (my native form), and at first the poem was titled after a phrase from Browne’s book. After the poem showed me where it needed to go, that title no longer fit. I cast about. I scrambled. I came up with “The Dolorist Confesses,” but I’m not super happy with it.

Also, I had the poem laid out in three parts with subheadings. However, with only three couplets per section, the headings quickly proved to be too heavy. Then, when I got to the last “section,” I realized that the real ending would need four couplets instead of three. The three sections announced the onset of the depression, described what happened to my body because of it, and then detailed how I started pulling myself up out of it. Now, they are simply one poem made up of ten couplets, still covering the same content. I did use several of the words I’d gathered from Browne’s book, but much of the energy of the poem came from the initial phrase I’d constructed while walking.

Here’s to breathable air and the time to stretch my legs (and mind) in it.

Posted by Sandy Longhorn

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