Writing a Golden Shovel Poem: Day 3

[You can read day 1 and day 2 here.]

Yesterday, I went to Valleyfair (theme park) with Randy and Maddie. It was a gorgeous day, high 60s and sunny, and the park was practically empty.

Randy, me, and Maddie

No lines for anything–even the big coasters! We rode and ate and laughed–and I worked on my poem.

Power Tower
Power Tower! This one scared me more than usual yesterday:>)

Sadly, even with taking Dramamine, I get queasy after a certain number or certain kind of roller coasters. And there are some rides I just plain hate, like giant swings.

Valleyfair Extreme Swing -- nope
Valleyfair Extreme Swing — nope

So while Randy and Maddie enjoyed THOSE rides, I hit the bathroom, freshened up my Chapstick, and worked on my poem.

My notes for my golden shovel draft
My notes for my golden shovel draft

I had printed out the original poem I needed to take a line from plus the captions that go along with some of the photos in Magnus Wennman’s Where the Children Sleep exhibit. I have written a couple poems paired with his images (see one here), and I think I will do another one for this month’s Poetry Princesses poem. So I printed out the captions to help me remember some of the images I could choose from.

Poem Writing at Valleyfair
Working on my poem while they rode Steel Venom–stomach made me sit that one out:>(
Randy and Maddie on Steel Venom

By the time we left, I had written 5 or 6 drafts.

Golden shovel drafts
Golden shovel drafts

All of these were written to a heartbreaking Wennman photo of a small girl sleeping in the forest. The caption reads: Lamar left her dolls, toy train, and ball back home in Baghdad, Iraq. She often talks about these items when home is mentioned. One bomb changed everything. Her family was on its way to buy food when a bomb was dropped close to their house. “It was not possible to live there anymore,” says Lamar’s grandmother, Sara. After two attempts to cross the sea from Turkey in a small rubber boat, they have made it to the Hungarian border. Now Lamar sleeps on a blanket in the forest, scared, frozen, and sad.

I started out with the line I was using in my earlier drafts, and the poem described the setting and the situation. It was third-person, which I think will be necessary in this form because of the lines available to me (since I want it to be about a child, but the vocab of the original poem is not childlike). But it felt too distant and cliche: “though stars are adazzle/her heart is dim.”

I scribbled three drafts still using that same line “with swift, slow, sweet, sour, adazzle, dim.” I just wasn’t happy with it.

So I decided to try a new line: “fresh-firecoal, chestnut falls, finches’ wings”

Right away, this felt more immediate. These were specific words, and I tried to put myself in that forest a teeny bit. Tried to imagine the nightmare of living that way. And after three drafts with this line, I have:

In each sleep, the horror is fresh
     staring, glaring eyes like firecoal
     a roar hungry for more than bark and chestnut

Silence falls
and the beast feeds on broken finches

She dreams of wings


It still needs work, but I do like this best of what I’ve written so far. I want to work on the sounds, especially.

But not bad work, I thought, for a day at the theme park:>)



5 Responses

  1. I’ve been reading and following your journey while writing to this challenge. Thanks so much for sharing your process. I’ve been writing at odd times while waiting … in line, at an audition, for an appointment, etc. I need to carve out some time to really think about this one.

    I do like what you’ve shared today!

    1. Thanks, Tricia. Little odd bits do work so well for poetry–at least for me! It’s one of my favorite things about poetry, in fact. It fits itself into our lives, wherever and whenever it can:>) I’m enjoying and railing against this challenge all at the same time!

  2. I cannot write in public… except in church (SHHHHH! But, c’mon, it’s mostly quiet there, once the sermon gets started. *cough*) so that you did this at a THEME PARK is kind of killing me! Wow.

    And changing phrases seems to have helped; there’s an immediacy in some of the lines and not so much in some of the others. I swapped lines, too, and stole your idea for going with nature, and — boom! — instantly, it got easier. It IS still tempting to simply enlarge on the meanings of the end words, but it’s like I have to almost write it with my face turned away from them, humming a whole different song to myself, for it to work… but, slowly and surely, it IS working.

    If nothing else, I frequently relearn perseverance from these poetry challenges.

    1. Oh, Tanita–you reprobate! Churches are wonderful writing places. I don’t go often, but attending concerts in churches–those are always prime writing times. The sound and hush unlock something. Thanks–I do like the more immediate lines. Still need to work more on it, but I feel better about it than before. Interesting that you swapped lines, too. I can’t wait to see what lines you and everyone chose.

      I agree about looking away. I had to totally get a picture in my mind of who and what my poem was about, and then look at the end words. I felt like Tim Gunn: “Make it work, Laura!” So glad you’re making progress!

    2. PS This was done in 5 or 6 different little blocks of time (5–10 minutes each). I’d be keeping an eye out for Randy and Maddie and then–whoops–got lost in the poem and totally forgot about them. I am grateful I can block out other things while writing. Reading and writing are both escapes for me. I can lose myself in either, just about anywhere. Though if I wrote novels, I am QUITE sure this would not be the case. I can’t wrap my head around those even with full concentration in a locked room with no windows.

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