For session 7, Ron gave us to read three beautiful poems. The first one was I Do Have a Seam by Jamaal May, and he wanted to ask us how we would perform the poem. An interesting thing about the poem was the position of the word “here”, right at the centre, in the middle of two columns. We discussed it and some of my classmates gave different solution. One just pronounced it at the beginning of every sentence, repeating it; another uttered it twice, before the two sentences in the middle of the two columns… it was a great discussion because it showed that every writer and reader has their own way to interpret and read a poem. It is good to be prepared to share that view and to compare it with other people. Also, the poem is beautifully arranged on the page. Every line is very distant from the other, there is a lot of white space. That here has an important position. The speaker addresses a you, like in an ode, and there is an emotional and sexual element, tenderness and violence at the same time. Nothing in this poem seems accidental. It seems to work perfectly on the page and on stage.
Another poem we had to read was The Race by Sharon Olds. Ron asked us to notice things. I notice that there were no full stops at the end of the lines, and maybe that was done to show the rush of the poem. The reader is scared with the speakr. It represents a mystical moment for the speaker who reveals something incredible. It is about the speaker rushing to the hospital from the airport to see their dad who is probably not going to live the night. The line breaks cut the images. This made me wonder about what my line breaks too, if they have a role in the unfolding of the experience, of the story. If I consider them in the moment of revision. The last poem we had to read was The Colonel by Carolyn Forche, which was one of my favourites of all the poems we read. It is written in prose and it starts like a conversation, with the speaker addressing someone and saying What you have heard is true. The speaker has all the reader’s attention. The poem develops on three levels: it seems like a conversation between pals; sometimes it sounds more like a report of something that happened, and it also has poetic, beautiful metaphorical images, like the personification of the ears. When Ron asked us what we wanted to try that we saw in these poems, I said that I would like to try to use short sentences, to write poetry like I was giving a brief and precise account; to try to write poetry as a conversation between mates and to put scraps of poetic language, exactly like in this poem.
After the reading and discussion, it was the moment of the obstruction. Ron wanted us to answer to some questions.
- Write a list of your oldest fears. He showed us a picture that said “Your oldest fears are the worst ones”.
- Fear of forgetting.
- Fear of not being able to see what’s under me when I am swimming in the sea.
- Fear of not being a good friend.
- Fear of not managing to do what I want in life.
- Fear of someone cutting of my nipples and clitoris (this is a recurrent dream).
2. Choose two of these fears and write down words that you associate to them.
Fear of the Sea: splashing, waves, people laughing and having un, sounds under water, animals, rocks.
Fear of being cut: scissors, cutting, screams, blood, tears, pain.
3. List verbs, actions and movements that you associate with these fears.
Sea: swimming, plunging, going back on the shore, speeding, splashing, drowning
Cut: screaming, cutting, kicking, twisting, crying, trying to escape
4. List nouns and details that you associate to them, objects, textures, materials.
Sea: salty smell in the mouth, closed ears, makeup smeared on my face, swimsuit stuck on my breasts, nipples emerging, seaweed whirling between my toes.
Cut: Blood, skin, scars, tears, wrinkles, sweat.
5. Now talk about some forces that are opposite to those fears. Some forces, joys, miracles that “operate” against those fears. Ron told us that his joy was his son learning to walk after the disappointment of Trump becoming president.
Sea: I watch many documentaries about the sea and the animals that live there. I always wear a mask to see underwater. And I swim with my bf or friends, so I am not alone.
Cut: Taking pleasure from those parts of my body. Seeing my bf’s eyes getting bigger when he looks at them.
6. The last question was instead about reading the drafts and editing the work of our friends. What has been instructive about reading 10 drafts in progress?
- Being able to see how people made a different use of the obstructions. Limits lead every writer to a different outcome, creativity and inspiration.
- Being able to see the diversity and the beauty of other people’s writing, to identify mistakes that I do myself and to see how my own writing differs from theirs.
At this point, we were ready to start the obstruction.
– 28 lines or more.
– Consider how form influences performance.
– End on an unexplained image
– Tension: fear and what complicates, clarifies, or combats it
– Intimate details
This is my attempt.
First Draft Version
There was a shark in her head.
Spinning around a small island,
Ground crumbling under her feet.
I watched her dancing wildly
her toes buried in the dark sand.
I had seen her swimming
in pools of Tequila, looking around
with shimmery eyes, unable to see.
She smiles in the face of the danger.
She had always had.
I watched her from the corner.
She slapped her hands on the counter
after drinking the shot,
Shining and laughing
I looked at her sparkling nails
under the light of the dancefloor
kissing the black roots of her hair
as she whirled and twisted.
Schools of jellyfish would chain around her.
She would move them away to drink something else.
She wouldn’t let the sharks bite her again,
but she knows they will. her forearm knows too.
A yellowy bruise badly concealed
with a low-branded powder.
She dances on her island alone.
Still the shark waits for her,
patient and silent, in the depht of the
water she can’t really see.
The sun kisses her fingertips
that wouldn’t hurt anybody.
But when whe ground crumbles
and the night is over
there’s no last dance, no one
for the road, no other ways.
25 to Ilford to take her back
1 hour of silence, the gound
slipping under her feet
pools of tequila go dry.
As she opens the door
the hallway’s as pitch black as the sea.
Clenched fists hit in surprise
like a shark hunting at night.
Writing this poem in this layout and arranging it on the page like this made me wonder if I do write in form or if in general I just blurt it out and then shape it later. For this, it came like on this page, but I know that for other poems it did not happen. I’ll see what the final project will be and how I will build everything up.