My Heavenly Blue morning glories are finally blooming for the first time this year – it’s about freakin’ time! They’ve inspired me to write a poem, which will give me something new to read at the “Poets Speak Loud!” open mic at the Lark Tavern tonight. But thanks to my work on the Poisoned Pen Web Con, I’m badly behind on my blogging. What to do? I know – I’ll write a blog post about my poetic process.
As usual, I walked out to retrieve the Times Union at about seven, before breakfast. As soon as I saw the few purplish blue blooms opening tentatively on the trellis near the mailbox, I realized I had the makings of a poem. Ideas began swirling around in my head, and once back in the house, I immediately jotted down this journal entry:
My heavenly blue morning glories are finally blooming – it’s about time! That’ll be today’s blog – parallel with me as late bloomer – how much time before the killing frost? Also a new poem for Poets Speak Loud tonight.
That’s all she wrote, folks – at least so far. Ideally, I would have headed right up to my computer and started writing, but there were several obstacles to barrel through. First, my cats Beep and Lunesta. My office doubles as their bedroom, so I had to let them out and feed them, then change the litter (Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat Extra Strength Clumping Litter with Ammonia Block – my favorite and theirs). Then came my own breakfast, and a quick scan of the paper. Ditto for my e-mail. A quick Facebook update about my inspiration, and then I began writing this post.
As a mystery writer, poet and blogger, I’m a blank-computer-screen type. Some writers do extensive journaling or outlining first, but the journal entry above is about as involved as I ever get in longhand. In high school, I taught myself touch-typing by closing my eyes and turning out stream-of-consciousness meanderings about Miles Davis and my other jazz crushes on my mother’s little black Smith Corona. Later, after earning a couple of Ivy League degrees, I supported myself as an artist by means of various menial secretarial jobs. So I’m a speedy typist, and my ideas flow much more freely when my fingers are on the keyboard.
If I were writing my morning glory poem instead of this blog post, I would open a fresh word document and begin typing, very much the way I did when I was a teenager with braces, musing about Miles. But thanks to the magic of Microsoft Word, I now edit as I go. If things are flowing well, it takes me about an hour to come up with a reasonably articulate first draft, something adequate for an open mic reading. Later, I may tinker a bit and make a few revisions, but basically the first draft is also pretty much the last. I’ve never formally studied poetry, I don’t kid myself about my poetic abilities, and I don’t have any professional aspirations as a poet, but it’s great therapy, and it’s fun, especially when I have the instant gratification of an open mic the same night.
Here are some of the thoughts I’ll be tossing around later today, more or less as they occurred to me:
Morning glories – are those actually the Heavenly Blue ones? I thought they’d never bloom. Yesterday’s rain must have finally done the trick. It’s been much too dry around here the last couple of weeks . . . climate change? It was much too gray and rainy for most of the summer . . . we practically had no summer at all and now it’s already fall . . . wonder how long these flowers will have before the first killing frost? Maybe a week or two at most . . . I keep thinking about Susan Wittig Albert and her posts about the Texas drought . . . the morning glories are a lot like me, flowering in the autumn of my life. How long will I have? We never know . . . what about that friend with pancreatic cancer, and he’s only in his fifties . . . “And now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of my years” . . . beautiful song, Frank Sinatra, “It was a very good year. . . vintage wine from fine old kegs, from the brim to the dregs.” Wonderful lyrics, wonder who wrote them . . . Johnny Mandel was really great at that concert Saturday night, he did arrangements for Frank Sinatra . . .
I could go on, but you get the idea. Many of these thoughts will never make it into the actual poem, but we’ll see what happens. However it turns out, I know I’ll get lots of applause at the Lark Tavern tonight. In my next post, I’ll publish the poem and let you know how the open mic went.
Chances are my readers in the Albany area already know about Mary Panza’s “Poets Speak Loud” open mics on the last Monday of every month at the Lark Tavern. For those who don’t, you should check it out! The tavern is at the corner of Madison and Lark, and the readings start around 7:30. Tonight’s featured poet is Alifair Skebe. She’s an excellent poet, but I happen to know she isn’t particularly loud. Mary, maybe it’s time you feature me one of these months as well.
I know some of the local poets read this blog – why not leave some comments about your own poetic process?