Discovering the Epiphany Moment

Feeling frustrated with my latest writing attempts— the phrasing unravels on the page into heavy abstract, codified lines. At the core of the resulting poem I sense my main idea lies hidden, as a buried acorn shell wanting to crack open and reveal itself— a sprouting of a tree— yet, the idea remains too hidden, in other words, too obscure. Perhaps I read too much of Jean Valentine, G. C. Waldrep with John Gallagher— their post-post modernism have built a foundation of psychological impressions and expectations in my head, rather than tangible prayers, tangible chants—but even my analogy is failing tonight.

The issue at hand, I have a surreal fantasy concept to describe, yet, it is necessary to place the course of action in a realistic realm of thought in order to communicate an accurate depiction of the scene. What results: I keep recording random expressionistic ramblings which result in confusion, not objective interpretations. The latest material reads as automatic writing exercises and not as finalized, coherent thoughts— as if the pen were in control and not myself.

I have thought of generating a long title as balance, as a means of adding a grounding element—but even then, —

A Shaman lost in Translation as a She-Bear
She-Bear Under Cover of Night
She-Bear Dreaming of a Former Life as Shaman

So, the annoyance builds— overwhelmingly. I wanted this section completed before March, but at this rate the schedule radically turns on its head. Perhaps after a twelve to twenty-four hour break the points expressed in the verse will be articulated in a clearer fashion…

          Slumbering, half
lumbering— she’s bundled in
          heavy folds of night,
quilt heavy bulk of darkness—
stars sewn close to the landscape.

          The night sky reveals
no dreamscapes any longer—
          prophecies are stilled,
unstitched from the horizon—
oracle scrolls are silent.

          Stumbling drunk shaman—
she’s wrapped in a quilt of guilt.
          Intricate threading
of past lives as a heavy
winter coat— surrounding close.

          Swatches of colors
shift cross the hand-dyed cotton,
          the rows of beadwork,
strung stones of her memories,
rosaries of discomfort—

Seventeen hours later: The story in the poem still lies undisclosed to my ears—not as severe as last night mind you, but an intense level of indecipherable phrasing lingers— another way of looking at the situation: I do enjoy language poetry to a large extent; I even seek out construction of such forms on a frequent basis. The most successful types of this venture are poems which establish a strong metaphor. The reader understands an aspect of what the poet bridges together, allowing a greater connection to the piece. A sense of background development is required for better reciprocation.

It comes down to this: for my she-bear situation, there is no established connection. And therefore I need to do something about it. Which results in the frustration. The argument within my head with the Negative Critic who tells me I am not good enough. Odd. This is the second time in a short week’s time he has emerged into my conscious awareness.

One rule of thumb that I adhere to: if background visualization is needed, then the poem has failed. Sometimes confusion and surreal dream-logic are often employed in order to generate a mood in the reader— but in this case, the above stanzas were intended to invoke an atmosphere and a story line— similar to Anne Sexton’s Transformation poems. Her text reinvents the Grimm brother’s collected stories into something other—

I just pulled the book off the shelves and am thumbing through the pages. Sexton’s poems were written with the premise of altering a folk-story to a modern sensibility, a modern vernacular, without losing the original framework of the plot… if one does not know the Grimm brother’s original work, is something lost in Sexton’s translation? Are these merely the same concept of Andy Warhol’s photo-reprints of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley in flashy colors and different adjectives? Of course I know the answer to these questions. But for me, in order to make the intentions of the she-bear poem work, I need a slightly stronger basis of character development to justify the abstract nature of the passages.

Perhaps the situation falls into identification: I need the reader to identify with an iconic representation of a familiar symbol — something solid, immediate— tangible as a stone in hand, and then I can twist, reinvent the image… Like Galway Kinnell’s “Saint Francis and the Sow” two instant, traceable images brought together on the page, then embellished with new meaning. I have mentioned this poem in particular back in April of last year— it remains that much of an influence on my mind, poking at my project list with a reminder to get other concepts down into verse. I have thought of using a mock archetype from Greek myths— one of the dramatic goddesses or tragic heroines trapped in the guise of a bear— one who has temporarily forgotten her heritage and history. Which is of course one of the themes in the overall project: reclaiming the past, reinventing the present. Discovering the epiphany moment that is temporarily hidden by unplanned circumstances.

A Short List of Possibilities

So I close my eyes. Fall back into my own memory. Concentrate. And again: concentrate.


  1. This fascinates me D-G. A powerful narrative on the creative process - and its frustrations! Personally I enjoyed reading the quoted stanzas. The images are lush - I began to feel mesmorised by the language and the images conjured. You are the one not feeling it though. I thought you were showing - rather than telling and am convinced that the showing will bring the revelation you seek.

  2. Yvonne,
    You picked out one of my greatest fears: not being able to show the appropriate scene and as a result not telling a story. With abstract notions the lack of tangibles or identifiable background details sometimes makes me hesitate. And then a greater resulting frustration.

    It stems from my years in art classes. When I visualize a scene for a painting, problems develop due to the fact I want to be able to recreate the images in a hyper realistic manner, super real, photo accurate, Renaissance oil on wood. Which is beyond my patience. So I turn to poetry.

    Your words are a strong assurance—which I am thankful for.

  3. I am glad I could reassure through my sincere and simple observation.
    Your poetry seems to me an extension of your visual art.
    The most profound poetry speaks meaning in images. There is greater and more profound meaning conveyed by showing. Painting a picture with words.

  4. Ironically, I often am left with a sense of frustration during the building process of a poem — then after a week or so I "let it go."

    Do you go through a similar dissatisfaction?


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