A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to win the Single Onion Halation Twitter Poetry contest. Surprised because I don’t win things often – not scratch tickets, no free coffee during roll up the rim – and pleased because, well, I’d won a poetry contest! My prize was to have my poem printed on the poster of an upcoming Single Onion poetry reading event (and now I’d like to see if I can get my hands on one of ‘em). I continue to be a little surprised and very flattered.
I read the winning tweet while I was at the office. More than a bit surprised, I blurted “I just won a poetry contest”. My team lead – a PhD, writer, former university professor, foreign film aficionado and all-round interesting individual – asked me to forward her my winning poem. So I did:
I decorate my life with
pinned to corkboard.
A sculpted garden
reeking of insincerity
After reading Paper flowers, she asked me two things – did I compose this at work? and why ‘reeking of insincerity’? I admitted that I drew my inspiration from work – my cubicle is actually decorated with fake flowers (yes, the above is a grainy cell phone photo of silk flowers pinned to my cube wall) – and that I chose ‘reeking of insincerity’ because they’re fake flowers (insincere) and because flowers smell (read: reek). Simple really. But her questions got me thinking about why I write what I write; the little decisions I make, sometimes without even realizing I’ve made them, that drive a piece in a certain direction.
When I looked back at my notebook page a few days later, I was amused at the chicken scratches and on-the-spot edits I’d made to ultimately reach what I felt were the right words. I know we all do this – write, edit, and edit again. Sometimes I feel that a poem can never be truly complete because I could always go back and make some tiny revision. Lately I’ve been of the opinion that this unfinished quality is what makes the poem a poem, unique in its apparent completeness but never final.
And so the real reason for this post is to do something I’ve never done before – share my process. Once upon a time I was an English Literature major. As a result, I have a certain fondness for disecting the written word – breaking the pieces apart and theorizing about the contet. Sometimes. Most times I simply enjoy the beauty of a poem; the overt message, the subtext, the meaning it has for me personally. But the questions my team lead posed sparked a curiosity in me about my own work, and something I thought I would share.
I submitted three poems for consideration, each the length of one tweet. In the process of doing so, I came up with all sorts of lines – some that made it into these three, and some that will be tucked away for later use. This isn’t my usual process of refining a piece. Recently, I’ve been evolving how I write, looking for the path that leads me where I’m trying to go. Phrases pop into my head at any time of day or night, and I write them down haphazardly in my notebook. There’s always chaos when I have to pull them all together – like doing a puzzle without the picture on the box and with all the corner pieces missing.
I’ve posted my original scribbling, including all of my extraneous words as I searched for the right one. Below that, you’ll find the ‘final’ drafts of the other two pieces I submitted. (Note: if you click on the image, it should become big enough to read)
All that glitters
Warmed by the
distant sparkle of
The High Life
my painted nails
the color of blue-green algae
just don’t jibe