Yes, I know. So what?
So I’ll write this mostly for myself.
At least, I started writing it in my head. A few years later, when Arnie moved to B.C. for work, I was bored so I took a poetry workshop run by someone or other at U of T. As usual, I felt obligated to show up with something the first day, so I wrote Part I in a pressurized spurt (having gestated it for all those months.)
When I got to the last line, another student gasped. I lazily lived off that gasp for the next interval.
For some reason, many years later, I felt compelled to at least write what became Part III. I see from the (semi-hidden) post dates at my poetry blog that I typed it into the blog in 2010, which means it was done probably a year earlier at least.
This year I’ve been feeling guilty about not even starting Part II except in my head, and scribbling a few notes.
My excuse has always been that no matter how many memoirs of living in an iron lung I managed to collect, none of them described the actual sensation of being in one. That’s really what it was, though: an excuse.
I was finding it harder and harder to write poetry. I started questioning the “voice” I’d developed.
Especially since, after I quit smoking, I lost my poetry “voice”. (A common phenomenon, apparently.) If my “voice” was just a nicotine trick, well, then it had all been phoney bullshit all along, right?
Also 9/11 blah blah blah.
But for whatever reason (menopause?) I’ve been thinking of taking up poetry again.
(Normally, because I write mostly “dramatic monologues” [cough zzzz] my stuff requires a LOT of research, immersion, gestation, obsession — and time and space for uninterrupted reverie along with the actual writing, the kind of luxuries you tend to have more of when you’re younger.)
For most of this time, I’ve had a lot of vague ideas for new poems, but figured it would make more sense to at least finally finish the middle part of “Mia Farrow.”
Today turned out to be the day. I realized how manfully I’d been putting it off when I physically and mentally struggled to turn off the TV and reduce the other distractions I’d been using to avoid cracking my notebook open. (I write in longhand.)
I did what I always did, rewriting my notes and fragments over and over again until they congeal into something acceptable and “done.” That I did it without starting smoking again means something, although probably just that I’m a spaz.
I didn’t bother trying to get the “voice” to match the old sections, whatever that would even mean or entail.
I’m really not entirely happy with the end result, but not for that reason.
Father Damien, the “leper priest,” has a big role in Farrow’s personal mythology, and I was unable to shoehorn him into what would seem to be a thematically obvious piece.
I also had trouble integrating the italicized parts which are excerpts from her book with my own words. It shows how long it’s been since I’ve tackled a long poem that I had to get used to formatting one; normally such quotes/asides would be on a separate paper page.
And I never did find out what an iron lung felt like. But at least I didn’t use the trick of enjambment to imitate someone having trouble breathing. So I’m not that much of a hack yet.
So the poem is flawed, in the sense that a workman who does a half-assed job knows that the “finished” thing isn’t really “finished,” even though his customers may never know and it looks fine on the surface. It has “holes” in it.
(Whereas my “Jack Ruby” poem is a great success [to me] because it is the authentic, organic, ultimate distillation of all the research I did and months I spent scribbling crap down; only I know what that involved, but the finished, successful whole is scaffolded and underpinned by hundreds of tiny, invisible foundational parts. I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that, even if the reader never could or will. It has no “holes.”
(BTW: since the last time I visited my U of T poetry section, I see that they’ve accidentally changed the title to other poems collected to “Jack Ruby.” I doubt the resource is even being maintained any longer, so I doubt this can be fixed. What a pain.)
I will go back and pick at “Mia Farrow…” for a while, no doubt. I tend to do that for months, even years. I’m having a particularly hard time with one bit, which may be unfixable.
But now I feel like I can move on to the other ones I’ve been toying with for almost as long.