I thought I’d talk a bit about my process for crafting a new poem, since, well, I’m right in the middle of it.
Nearly always, my poems begin with a nebulous thematic concept, or a particular word or phrase which I wish to feature, or both. Next, I settle on a form which will best highlight that concept or phrase, and then I give the piece a working title. Often the title sticks, but I don’t stress too much about it at this stage, just go with a gut impulse.
In this case, because it needs to tie in to the greater collection of Refraction Cycle, I’m choosing to write again about an individual who is noted in the Cycle, in the poem “Denim Redux” which itself was a reaction poem to another piece I wrote decades ago, “Faded Denim” about that same individual. While those two poems have their place, there are still elements that I don’t feel honored moments that still feel important to me.
So that’s the concept. I also have had the phrase “liquid copper curls caressing fingers” stuck in my brain, every time I think about this poem. Given that phrase already has ten syllables, I’ve decided to make this a sonnet.
Next, I grab a blank sheet of printer paper and sketch out the stanzas and the rhyme scheme, to keep myself on track. I want to use each stanza to highlight a different element or memory, which leads me to place the above line as the 7th line of the poem. With that, I now know which four lines will need to rhyme with it, and come up with some suitable options, jotting them down where they might fit.
So, at this stage, I’ve got an outline, and lines 2, 5 and 7 roughed out, and an idea for line 4. From here, I’ll focus on lines 6, 8, 9 and 11, since that’s the next largest block of rhymes I’ll need.
It may seem odd to be working from the middle of the poem outward, but it seems to happen that way more often than not.