Processing my process.

my dream about being white

hey music and
only white,
hair a flutter of fall leaves
circling my perfect
line of a nose
no lips,
no behind, hey
white me
and i’m wearing
white history
but there’s no future
in those clothes
so i take them off and
wake up

                              — Lucille Clifton


I’m thinking I need to put a little more dedicated time into my rhyme royals, maybe make the writing the first thing I do in the morning: wake up, pull my notebook into the bed and get to work.  Sanchez talked about doing that when she was starting to write haiku.  She kept at it for much longer than a month, of course.  I don’t see myself doing that with this form.  I was happy to keep up with the tanka, but these rhyme royals … we’re still standing on opposite sides of a line.

It’s interesting to see just how much I continue to resist this form.  I’ve been at it a couple of weeks now, and I still can’t quite get comfortable.  It’s true that I am God’s own rhythm-less girl, but it still surprises me how much the rhythm of a rhyme pushes against me.  I keep trying to thwart that rhythm.  I extend, shorten and wrap lines, push and pull at cadence … but the rhymes still jump out at me, still wave their red flags.  I’m putting up my 17th try today … and I think this form could still be kicking me if I was putting up my 17ooth try!

But I continue.  I’m nothing if not dogged … and perhaps a glutton for punishment.

A friend of mine has a labyrinth in her back yard.  I’ve never walked it.  At the WE LEARN conference last month, she made one on the stage in the main conference hall.  That one I walked.  I really like the idea of the labyrinth as meditation, the idea that there is only one path and that you wind yourself into the center as you walk, and then have to wind your way back out again.  Reminds me of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.

I’ve been thinking about the labyrinth a lot today.  At the conference, my friend also taught us how to make our own labyrinth, and I have to say I’ve been drawing them ever since.  I love how easy it is to do, and I love how contemplative the drawing is.  I think this is in my mind today because I’ve been trying to focus so hard on what’s going on and going wrong in my class right now, trying to find my way back to the dynamic I feel certain we can have, looking closely at what I’m doing as an instructor that is and isn’t working.

I’ve made a little draw-your-own-labyrinth slideshow that takes you through the basic steps:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I trace the path around —
curve leading to curve, turning
in and over, not lost but found.
Focus on breath and thought, not sound,
or time, but movement, question, peace.
Ending at the beginning.  Release.


2 thoughts on “Processing my process.

  1. molly

    I love this poem, which, like the labyrinth you describe, goes in a direction that you can almost “get”, but not quite and you are led along and back and then, there you are. Nice.
    Thank you so much for the slide show. It took me a while, but I now have one of these in my notebook, and I think I can reproduce it. Wow!
    What you said about your writing reminded me of an interview I read with Keith Jarrett. He obviously knows a lot of tunes that come out of his fingers. When he sits down to play, his hands go “towards” something they already know, and he forces his hands to play something else, anything else. I don’t know if I have rendered what he was saying, but I think I know the sensation he is talking about. Usual actions done purposefully lead to new sensations and … new poems. I like what Sanchez said about the form, that you reported to us, that it stimulates you to go places. I think the form is pushing at you in good directions.
    And I sure hope your “bad actors” (as my mother, a teacher, used to call the disorderly students) are a little less difficult this week.


    1. Thanks, Molly. I love the labyrinth! I keep sketching them in my notebook, too. I love the Keith Jarrett story. I think that’s an accurate description of what I try to do when I’m writing, too. My month of rhyme royals has come to an end (finally?), but certainly my process will continue.


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