Friday, November 1, 2019


Howdy, Campers ~ and Happy Poetry Friday! (PF link at the end)

The topic of this round is MESSY MIDDLES,  talking about what happens if the middle of a novel is sagging or the middle of another project just isn't working, etc. 

I can't offer much advice or examples of this except to say that I'm always in the middle of quiet terror. Can anyone relate?

So...let's talk about the messiness of writing a poem.

Here's how this poem four steps (I've left out many of the middle attempts):

1. Looking for an idea. 

I started with a first line: I am musing about music.

by April Halprin Wayland

I am musing about music.
I am lost.
I cannot find my feet.
They are sinking in sand.
There is no topic.
There is not bottompic.
There is just sinking
no thinking
no help
no hope
no nothing
until a little bird.
Just a word.
Just a chirpy word.
One chirpy word.
I look up
from this hole
from sand in my hair
sand on my cheeks
sand on my hands
sand from the beach
sand into next week
at a sandpiper
at her slender needle beak
I wait for her to speak.
another chirpy word
which I find thrilling
I'm twirling in this hole
a sort of reverse drilling
I'm spinning out this hole
scattering the sand
spraying it
playing it
this poem sucks
2. Research. 

I looked up the word music:

From Greek mousikē, any art presided over by the Muses

Read more:'music'#ixzz1G3YuxcOS

The word music comes from the Greek mousikê (tekhnê) by way of the Latin musica. It is ultimately derived from mousa, the Greek word for muse. In ancient Greece, the word mousike was used to mean any of the arts or sciences governed by the Muses. Later, in Rome, ars musica embraced poetry as well as instrument-oriented music. Read more:

...and wrote this:

This is a mushroom
This is my brain.
This fat white bumpershoot


I am the piano
I am the violin
I am a stupid poem
3. What's at the heart of this idea? 
drawing by April Halprin Wayland

I broke away from everything above and thought about what I was feeling inside:

by April Halprin Wayland 
Today I know
how that boy at the back desk feels
when his teacher tells him to write a poem.
He blinks blankly.
He isn't writing while all around him pencils fly.
He scratches his left eye
A storm cloud brews about his head.
His brows grow knotty.
When all around him ideas sprout
this boy at the back
is locked out.
I rewrote it and sent it off to my friend Bruce, who has been sailing around the world with his wife for over 13 years. Regular readers know that he and I send each other a poem a day. We've been doing it since April 2010.

4. Let let it cook. 

That was in March 2011. Today I searched my poems tagged WRITERS' BLOCK, found this poem (which has been cooking for quite awhile), and took another stab at it:

by April Halprin Wayland

While all around him ideas begin,
he picks the scab on his freckled chin.

While all around him pencils fly,
his brows grow knotty, mystified.

While all around him windows open,
He closes his eyes hoping, hoping.

Ideas take root and poems sprout,
but the boy in the back?

That boy's locked out.

Rewrites count as a day's poem in our rule book, so I'm sending this one off.
Thanks to Tabatha for hosting this week's Poetry Friday at The Opposite of Indifference!

posted by April Halprin Wayland with lots of love and the help of (in order of appearance) Gin, Eli, and Penny...who are sacked out after helping to edit this:


Linda Mitchell said...

What a fascinating look at and writing about process. I love it! Wonderful metacognition going on here. And, although I'm sorry the boy feels locked out....I like that the description of the feeling is so spot on. Well done.

Tabatha said...

So glad that rewrites count as a day's poem! Very cool to see the process. I laughed about this stanza and wondered if "reverse drilling" might pop up again sometime?
another chirpy word
which I find thrilling
I'm twirling in this hole
a sort of reverse drilling

Linda B said...

After being at Highlights, I should be full of ideas, but your post showed me where I've been and am these past days, April. Yikes, I need another try, just as you did AT LAST! Somehow it will come. I have faith, and I liked that final one very much, and also "He blinks blankly."

Irene Latham said...

April, I've just come here from Ruth's lockdown... always interesting when themes emerge on Poetry Friday! I want to tell that locked-out boy to close his eyes...none of those other moving pencils matter...find a quiet mindspace or stand up and walk around or watch something outside the window... and make in his heart a soft place for a poem to land... And: the let sleeping dog lie pic cracks me up. Thank you! xo

Kay said...

Thank you for sharing your process. It is fascinating to see how ideas grow and sprout--and I can relate to that spinning feeling. Your final poem captures that frustration of seeing everyone take off, pencils scribbling, while feeling locked away from those muses.

Kay said...

Thank you for sharing your process. It is fascinating to see how ideas grow and sprout--and I can relate to that spinning feeling. Your final poem captures that frustration of seeing everyone take off, pencils scribbling, while feeling locked away from those muses.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, Linda ♥️

April Halprin Wayland said...

Yes. In fact there are parts of that particular version that I really like. But for some reason 8 years ago I didn't want to pursue them. That's why it's worth keeping all these old drafts, right?

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, Linda. I have my ion Highlights... Someday I'd like to attend!!!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Irene ~ I love the follow-up you do with the boy. I believe he hears you. 💕

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, Kay. It's interesting when you look back, the process seems almost inevitable, but it sure doesn't feel that way.

Carol Varsalona said...

April, I was fascinated with your documentation of your writer's journey. Frustration, locked out feelings, do overs-they all exist in my world. I understand the perplexities but sometimes get caught up in the drama of rewrites "ad nauseam". Your persistence got you to the point of publication online for Poetry Friday and I like your final rendition.

Michelle Schaub said...

I love that you were able to be so metacognitive about your process of writing a poem. Fascinating!

Janice Scully said...

It was great reading your process, how you got to the heart of the poem. Love the rhythm and rhyme.

Tim Kulp said...

Thank yo ufor sharing April! I really like your poem The Boy in the Back. Having spent a lot of my life as that boy, I can say your poem really captures the lockout you feel when you think you can't do something. Nice work!

Catherine Flynn said...

Thank you for taking us on this journey, April. I'm always comforted to know that everyone experiences these moments of being locked out of a poem we're trying to write. I love the images you've included, especially the one of your dogs!

Cheriee Weichel said...

Thanks so much for sharing your process here. I especially appreciated seeing the progression of the poem. I've discovered that working on the second draft of my memoir in verse is brutal. I'm going to let it 'cook' for a while and see what happens.

GatheringBooks said...

What an awesome way of depicting the creative process in action. Intricate, convoluted, and a genuine desire to arrive at what exactly makes the poem breathe. Thank you for sharing all these. Lovely.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carol ~ thank you. I'm at a point where I feel like I want to go back to some of my old poems and revisit them. I want to make them not just better but something I'm proud of. Sometimes it's hard to know if I like a poem until a day or a week or years after I've written it.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Michelle... I had to look up metacognitive to make sure I understood what you were saying. I don't often stand back and look at my poems like that, but it was fun!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you very much Janice. 🎶

April Halprin Wayland said...

I'm so glad it resonated for you, Tim. I was able to do that because I had no ideas on the topic we TeachingAuthors we were to blog about this round. So I felt locked out. 🙃

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks for commenting about the images, Catherine. it means a great deal to me. I search for them and wonder if I enhance the blog or detract from it.

April Halprin Wayland said...

I'm in that position on two books,Cheriee. I just checked out the audiobook Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert on the free app OverDrive. Her approach to the act of Creation is so life-affirming, so spiritual, so forgiving, I think I may be ready to approach them with compassion now.

April Halprin Wayland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
April Halprin Wayland said...

Wow, Myra, thank you for your warm comment. You just made me smile.

Michelle Kogan said...

Thanks for sharing your poem's process April, sometimes poems just need to stew for a while, so we can come back with a fresher, unfamiliar eye–I think visual art is like this too. Hope that boy finds a space for his own poem…

Carol Coven Grannick said...

I love this post! Thank you, April!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Kay ~ it is fascinating to step back later and watch how an idea develops. Aren't we lucky?!?

April Halprin Wayland said...

Yes, I hope the boy finds inspiration or the feeling that it's even possible for HIM to write a poem, Michelle.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you for reading it, Carol!

Bobbi Miller said...

April, what an inspirational discussion that illustrates -- beautifully -- this process! Love your poem!!

Carmela Martino said...

I'm finally catching up after being out of town. I'm so sorry you felt "locked out" on the topic, April, but I'm thrilled you shared about that, and your process, with us. Like other commenters, I like the phrase "reverse drilling" from the first draft. And I was intrigued by the origin of the word "music." So much great stuff in this post, April! ❤