Portfolio: Reflection #8 (Poetry)

The course: Fundamentals of Great Writing

The most important thing I learned in this class was how important it is to cultivate a regular writing practice. During my writing courses in university, I was asked to produce a certain number of poems every term. Once I graduated, I lost much of my motivation to create new work.

For this course, we were asked to develop a daily writing practice. The writing I did was mostly an unstructured free writing, much like a journal. What amazed me, though, was that the foundation of several new poems grew out of the notes I had taken during my daily writing practice. Nearly all of the daily writing I did will remain as scribbled notes that nobody will read. But there were little pieces that I could pull out and play with to write poems I’m now quite proud of.

We were also asked to provide feedback on writing by our peers. I am used to providing feedback on poetry, but in this course, I was providing feedback on various types of prose. It was a new and fascinating experience. When I am thoughtfully engaging with work by other writers, I feel inspired and I discover techniques that I can apply to my own writing practice.

The assignment

This was a self-directed project. We were given the opportunity to define our own writing project to explore. I chose to write three poems as part of a larger manuscript of poems I have been crafting for a few years. I have included one of those poems as my eighth sample, and I have added one of the other poems to my roster for submitting to literary journals.

I shaped the three poems out of scribbles from my daily writing practice. The form and style of the three poems varied, but they were all concerned with my adolescence. Part of what I’ve been exploring with my manuscript is tracking an undercurrent of darkness in my childhood and adolescence.

This poem centers around a Tarot card reading. It’s loosely based on an actual reading a friend of mine performed when I was a teenager. However, it’s been over a decade since the reading, so I couldn’t recall the exact cards. Instead, I did some research into the symbolism behind various tarot cards, and selected a hand of cards based on the symbols I thought reflected my feelings when I was seventeen. After I selected my hand of cards, I wrote stanzas attached to each one, except the final card, “The Judgement.” I deliberately changed the pattern of stanzas at the end of the poem to create a sense of unbalance and uncertainty.

I made minor revisions to my original draft. Because poetry is something I have considerable experience writing, I felt confident with my earlier draft. The changes I did make were to tighten verbs and trim away some unnecessary words and punctuation.

Revised Sample #8 (Poetry)

Celtic Cross

Three of swords

Your hand divining your pocket

phantom vibrations

Nobody ever calls

 

Temperance, reversed

Your mouth sapless, lips wrung dry

Swallow another sip of Bacardi and Coke

It won’t slake you

 

Lovers, reversed

Remember Easter, faking sleep

You were waiting for someone who never arrived

On the floor next to you, they learned the tongues of Babel

 

Six of Cups

Pablo’s nose inks your ankle.

You think dogs can smell grief

easy as you can smell smoke

 

Queen of Cups

The first dream you interpreted for him,

butterflies in an old house

He wrote a song for you, but it wasn’t really for you

 

The Hanged Man

Driving your mother’s car down the Old Island Highway,

you thought you saw his brother’s ghost

Nearly drove into the ditch

 

The Fool

She says you can only read

with gifted cards

You pick at the chips in your purple nail polish.

 

The Hermit

Remember hating her before you met

Bus stop after school,

she spoke too loudly to too many people

 

The Wheel of Fortune, reversed

Your skull is an autoclave

You want to bore an auger through your temple,

release the pressure

 

Judgement

Portfolio: Draft #8 (Poetry)

Celtic Cross

Three of swords

Your hand probing your pocket,

phantom vibrations

Nobody’s calling

 

Temperance, reversed

Your mouth sapless, lips wrung dry

You swallow another sip of rum and Coke

It won’t slake you

 

Lovers, reversed

Remember Easter, faking sleep

You were waiting for someone who never arrived

On the floor next to you, they learned the tongues of Babel

 

Six of Cups

Pablo’s nose inks your ankle.

You think dogs can smell grief

easy as you can smell smoke

 

Queen of Cups

The first dream you interpreted for him,

butterflies in an old house

He wrote a song for you, but it wasn’t really for you

 

The Hanged Man

Driving your mother’s car down the Old Island Highway,

you thought you saw his brother’s ghost

Nearly drove into the ditch

 

The Fool

She says you can only read

with cards that were a gift.

You pick at the chips in your purple nail polish.

 

The Hermit

You remember hating her before you met

She was always at your bus stop after school

Spoke too loudly, knew too many people

 

The Wheel of Fortune, reversed

Your skull is an autoclave

You want to drive an auger through your temple,

release the pressure

 

Judgement