On my mini-whiteboard of things I must do, I have listed that I need to write five poems about China and then five poems about whatever I want. Doesn't seem like too much. they don't have to be beautiful, perfect poems, just poems, right? Revision is something we can do later. And yet somehow I find myself simply fixing poems that have been sitting in my slush folder for a year. None of which are about China.
In my opinion there are only a few ways to fix this: 1) Travel
3) Be forced into a writing project with a strict deadline
I can't travel at the moment because work, and I have no one to enforce strict deadlines on me because no one wants to be someone else's caretaker for free. (😭)
However, if you happen to be able to travel, I highly recommend taking some time to go somewhere with a place name. For example Green Dragon Lake, Universal Studios City Walk, Bartelby's Books, whatever and using the experience within that place to write your poem. What I like to do is really track how much whoever I go somewhere with is enjoying the experience. Or sometimes, I like to collect little moments of what happened and then imagine how much a person would have enjoyed it/reacted/felt if they had been there.
Let me know if you have different ways of writing when traveling! Or even if you have different ways of inspiring yourself to write.
For now I was left with one choice! To read! I read Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin, I started The Plains by Gerald Murnane, and becoming very bored... put it down again.
Sorokin's work inspired me more in the direction of short novella satire pieces, of which I have SO MANY ideas. But unfortunately, I needed poetry ideas, not short story ideas.
Back to the reading board.
I checked out some mythology of China in Chinese Mythology A-Z by Jeremy Roberts, and grabbed a few interesting characters I liked. Some items of interest included NüWa (in Henan, China or NüKua if you follow what Roberts says about the two being different entities), the Ba Xian, the Monkey King, and the Peaches of Immortality.
But it wasn't enough.
I checked out the Poetry Foundation and started stealthing my way through their poems. In the process, I came across Marilyn Hacker's "An Alexandrite Pendant for My Mother." The first line, "I am not in my home country, and my home" pulled me in, so I decided to see what I could do from there.
I wound up reading a few of her poems and noticed that they take place at a... place usually, which was enjoyable. Plus quite a few mentioned food, which is something I've been thinking about incorporating more into my poetry as well. Those tiny details of scientific info, meals, mythology, etc.. I feel make a poem better, lifting it to new heights.
She has a few poems titled "Runaways Café I", II, III that I took a shine to, in part because they followed a series of events, in this café. It gave me the idea to do something similar, just of course different events in a different location.
Hopefully this can help me even out my China poems collection I'm working on. I'm kind of noticing that I lack a cohesive style, I bounce back and forth from one form to another. I think I need to work on having poems that connect together a bit better, whether that's in form, style, or content matter. My goal is to improve this in part by keeping a connection with a certain place for a few poems and see how that goes/looks overall.
As a fun side note, I lost the poem "An Alexandrite Pendant for My Mother" at one point and thought I'd see what ChatGPT could do to help me find it.
Below are the results: TL;DR: Don't trust ChatGPT to know things. Do expect ChatGPT to be overly confident about what it thinks it knows.
No where was I able to find a poem titled "Instructions for Two" by Hacker, but maybe I wasn't searching hard enough?
Either way, interesting pieces that the chatbot came up with. I'd love to know if these works actually exist. Do you know where they're from?
Best, Mea Andrews
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