I spent this summer between two residencies and traveling. I spent this summer writing and writing. At what I thought was the end of my stint with residencies, a friend mentioned that he was going to do a writing challenge for the month of August. It is called "The Grind" where writers can be invited and are then challenged to produce a poem a day for a month.
At the beginning it seemed exciting. I was going off of momentum from my two residencies. About August 10, I was tired and frustrated and wanted nothing more than to think about writing a poem. It became a situation where writing the poem each day (still is...as August is still going!) felt like a punishment, like, "Man! I still have to write a poem for today."
So that's where I suppose the challenge comes in. Where as before this month, writing didn't feel like a challenge. Poems flowed. Poems almost magically appeared on the page fully-formed without much resistance.
I spent much of yesterday sending poems out into the publishing world. Sent out five submissions. Many of the reach places, but who knows. We will see upon the return. I spent the day, too, avoiding the looming poem that was due. A friend, seeing my struggle, offered a word to get me started: "douce campagna" which he said comes from a Wallace Stevens poem and supposedly means "sweet country."
Immediately when I hear the word "country" I think about my southern leanings. I was born and raised in the South, only recently moved to the Mid-Atlantic states a little over a year ago. And it's a very specific image I see when I hear the word. Georgia. I'm a native of Columbia, South Carolina...which touts being a "metropolis," which I will admit it is more diverse than other cities and towns in SC. So I don't think of home at all when I think of "country" the noun and "country" the adjective., but my grandmother's home, in rural Georgia. I think my friend gave me the word thinking that I would write about the other country...our country....the U.S. Nope.
Too, I should say, I have this interesting relationship with form. I approach it like a logic puzzle. Sometimes, when I have a story I want to tell, but not sure exactly how to shape it into free verse, I'll try it in a form and let the form dictate how the story unfolds. I find liberation in those restrictions. Is that weird of me? So then it's weird. Anyways. Immediately, after I received the word for the challenge, and thought about my Grandmother's Georgia (I also have a Grandmother Georgia...we called her.), I thought about the last time I visited, and what I saw, how it felt, and what we were visiting for. I thought it should go into a pantoum. The poem came soon after. I will share it in all it's newness (2:30 this morning to be exact!) here.
I welcome comments or suggestions.
Every time we travel to the country,
Grandma says we're going down the road
Though we're traveling East to West
On Interstate 20, only crossing over into Georgia.
From the Lincoln, we peer down the dirt road
at the skinned goat hanging from a tree coming
into view just after we cross into Georgia off I-20.
Its blood stains the dirt red. My sister and I
gawk at the hanged goat, skinned, and bleeding -
couldn't close our mouths - the sight of death
suspended over the blood-red dirt scares us.
This is the country of my Grandma's birth
and we open our mouths to it; taste the death-heavy air
as it wafts through the magnolia and pecan trees.
In the sweet country of my Grandma's birth,
our trembling steps, our reluctant visit with elders.
Death wafts through the magnolia, through the pecan trees,
wind moving us all from East to West -
Our uncertain steps, coming to visit with elders. We're weary
Every time we travel to the country.
(c) DeLana R.A. Dameron, 2008