My current book project consists of very short essays that add up to a novel. Between the essays, I’m thinking about inserting supplementary “ingenuities” — doodles, mindmaps, maybe a limerick or two. I’m not that clever about wordplay, but it’s another way to stretch my mind around the themes of “grand exits” and “wising up.”
I woke up this morning thinking I’d take a page from the avant-garde and put together a “poem” through the random selection of lines written by famous women poets. I got out my Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry and my random number generator and put a method together. The result* (with the title I had in mind when I started out) follows:
Where Were You When I Could Have Used Some Inspiration?
but whose is this vapid face
but suicides have a special language
He is splendid. With a place to stand
Upon her Mat–
This is the time of year
The fragrance of the quinine trees
the less there is for memory to take hold of,
Keeping the night carefully, it was undone.
If I could stir
that makes indignity, makes the brute
In wells a hundred feet below the ground–
Those creatures both corrupt and proud,
Yikes. The result certainly made me think, certainly stopped me in my tracks as I was looking for strong women writers and role models and what emerged was this sort of depressing swoon. Maybe it was just as well that I was nurtured by take-charge Irish women who told me to put my books down and go out and experience the world. Maybe it was just as well that I was educated by ambitious nuns who taught me that literature was about heroic night journeys and picaresque roadtrips (even if they were all written by men). Just a thought.
*lines written by Margaret Atwood, Ann Sexton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Clampitt, Josephine Miles, H.D., Muriel Rukeyser, Jean Toomer, and Louise Bogon.