Mentors, and Poetry That Inhales You

Mentors, and Poetry That Inhales You
By: Sara Ries Dziekonski
Blog #10
1/28/2020
 
That shirt-grabbing kind of poetry that consumes you, takes your breath away, perhaps even performs surgery on you—that’s the poetry I crave, and the kind I strive to write.
 
I remember advice my first writing mentor, Richard Robison, gave about writing: locate the strongest line of your poem and then try to make all the other lines just as powerful. Of course, with any writing, there will always be the lines that punch a little harder, but I found that to be really good advice and it’s something I work towards when I’m revising. I adore poems that yank the reader into them right away, with as few words as possible, poems with plenty of stunning lines that you have no choice but to stay until the closing line. Those are the poems that beg to be read again and again. Here’s a tiny poem I wrote one night last week about this kind of poetry:
 
Stunning
 
Poetry inhales you
By the shirt collar
Fiercely. Loving.

Recently I met with Gianna Russo, my mentor through Creative Pinellas. It is so important for writers to receive feedback on their creative work and I am so grateful for Gianna’s sharp eye. I remember how a poet-peer in grad school expressed her excitement to receive feedback on her poems in response to a student who didn’t enjoy constructive criticism. The student who welcomed feedback exclaimed, You’re helping me make my babies stronger! Our poems really are our babies, and I think it’s important to not be too attached to them so that we allow them to grow.
 
For my creative project for Creative Pinellas, I am working on a collection of poems on motherhood and aging and one of the poems is called “Drumbeat Kicks.” The previous version was titled “Letter to My unborn Son.” Gianna suggested that a phrase in the poem be the title as well as rearranging the opening stanzas. I took her suggestions and now the poem pulls the reader in faster and more in that shirt-grabbing kind of way. I am always amazed by how a switch of a stanza, word change, or even a punctuation mark can transform an entire poem.
 
I’ll end by sharing the first few stanzas of the most recent version of “Drumbeat Kicks”:
 
Drumbeat Kicks
 
Because you make music
in my womb
with your drumbeat kicks,
and before I could feel them
I watched on the screen as you did flips
and twists like a swimmer-gymnast
 
(and because once, during our many swims,
when the sunlight revealed the water’s secrets,
I saw that a school of fish was swimming
beneath you),
 
I already know you will soar headfirst
into this beautiful and bizarre world,
boy who wears the bird
in his hair like a crown,
butterfly thoughts
springing from his head.
….
 
And, in case you’re curious, here are the opening stanzas from the previous draft:
 
Letter to My Unborn Son
 
I already know you will be the baby
soaring headfirst into this beautiful
and bizarre world,
boy who wears the bird
in his hair like a crown,
butterfly thoughts
springing from his head.
Because you make music
in my womb
with your drumbeat kicks,
and before I could feel them
I watched on the screen as you did flips
and twists like a swimmer-gymnast.
(And because once, during our many swims,
when the sunlight revealed the water’s secrets,
I saw that a school of fish was swimming
beneath you.)
 
 
 
Thank you for reading, and thank you to all the all the people who offer suggestions to make our babies stronger.
 
Peace and Poetry,
Sara

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