Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mining the Past; Finding Poems

Last night I was reading historical documents that I have collected in my family history research, searching for new themes for poems in The Skimino Cycle.  I've been stymied in my attempts to capture feelings and events leading up to John and Mary's divorce, and in my attempt to develop the personality of Melanie, the hired girl with whom John had an affair.  So, I thought I'll return to earlier years in the cycle and turn to documents from the 1700s and early 1800s for ideas.  The deed in which John and Harriett Ratcliffe's personal property was itemized had formed the basis for the poem "There is No Life For Us Here," and in fact, the poem contains the itemized list almost verbatim.  Reading various documents, I realized there was a certain rhythm and style to much of the official and legal writing in the past-- with a little editing perhaps they could be literary items.  This also is in keeping with the "Found Poetry" movement-- the idea that poems can be formed from everyday words and language; that there's a certain poetry in everything we say or write. 

So, I'm going to experiment with this idea.  The next few poems posted in The Skimino Cycle will be "found poems," drawn and formed from the actual historical documents that are the record that remains of individual lives.

Addendum:  Posted four poems drawn largely (and in the case of "At the Supper Table of the Lamb" entirely) from the words in historical documents:  "William Ratcliff's Will and Testament," "Dear William," "At the Supper Table of the Lamb," and "I Take Thee, My Friend."

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