Teacher – early draft


This poem begins with “he” because that’s how the world hinges.
We extend, we bend, we reach, but everything returns to “he”.

His. This is where the poem continues, in the possessive case.
His. They are all “he”, and all things are “his”, these men that teach.
Every man who acts in false heroic solitude, every “him”, who considers
Himself a god.

Every “him” that saw me as a prop, my body as a prize, my youth as food
For their starving souls.
If I was a witch, I would curse them with famine – every childhood, every new realization
They seize would bring them less than nothing.

They wanted to teach me. They all wanted to teach me.
Some thought they were protecting me.
Some thought they were warning me about the things men would do,
If I gave them half a chance.

But I gave them nothing. I just was.

They wanted to teach me, out of nowhere. Self-appointed.
Catcalls. Stares. Busy, grabbing hands. “Men are pigs”, they’d say as they sniffed at me.
“Men are animals”, they said as they stared at my tits. “Men will hurt you”, they said as they discussed my cunt, how tight it must be.

But what I do not understand is that everything is a struggle for them!
They are awash in a strange world!
They are lost in tales of old warriors and kings!
They didn’t know whether or not to hold a door, or call me pretty!

But they knew how to call me a whore.
They knew how to watch every move I made.
They knew how to make me cast my eyes down. They knew how to unnerve me.
They knew how to make me view everything through fear.
They knew how to watch me on dark nights. They knew how to talk about training me.
They knew how to move closer and closer, their breath hot on me.

They did not know how to ask me the time of day, but each one thought
He could teach me.

Notice how no woman violates you in preparation for living among other women.
Notice how no woman eagerly awaits the pain of your first fuck, proof you’re fresh,
The very idea of your pain and humiliation a punchline and bait.

Longhand #drafting: Pros and cons for #poets

As we prepare to slide into the next litLAB meeting, I’d like to put something in your heads: longhand drafting.  Longhand is often regarded as the king of composition, but I’m a poet that pretty much grew up with computers – I’m at home both ways.

My personal take on longhand drafting

To get this ball rolling, let me describe my poetic drafting process.  I generally begin with a word, phrase, or cadence knocking around my head.  I’ll perversely delay writing it down at first and just consider it for a while.

Next, I’ll write it down, and build a poem around it.  I don’t count it as drafting until I have what “looks like” a poem ready to go.  Then I will do one of two things: I will keep drafting longhand, noting the draft number, or stick it in Googledocs.

Either way, this takes days or weeks, and forces me to work on discrete drafts, learning the strongest parts of the poem, eliminating the weaker ones (or recycling them for later work).

At this point, the real work is well under way.  Once it is in googledocs, it will go through at least 3-4 drafts until I’m happy.  I enjoy this because it’s simply easier to swap phrases and stanzas around, or even pop the damn thing into a table if I’m doing something with rhyme or form.  I can visually seperate the lines on a screen in ways I can’t really get from paper.  But paper does provide that sensory connection I crave.

Once it’s typed, I try to keep it in digital form, for good or ill, that’s how they will “interact” with the world the most.   I only know I’m done when, like Our Oscar, I spend all morning taking out a comma, and all afternoon putting it back in.

Ok, now you chime in on drafting!

So enough of me, how about you all?  How important is longhand drafting in your writing process?  Does anyone still do it?  Are there any benefits you get from this method that you can’t get from hopping right on the computer?

See y’all this weekend 😉