CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper/Fiction writer, poet, photographer, & painter. CRC Blog is an INCLUSIVE & NON-PROFIT BLOG acknowledging ALL voices –ALL political views, ALL philosophies, ALL religions, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Judaism, Agnostic, Atheist, etc. ALL Individuals LGBTQ & individuals from everywhere in the world. She has a B.S. in Criminal Justice & completed her workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing. She lives in St. Louis.
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***This is #162 in the never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem. All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. (Below Left: Janice D Soderling in February of 2019)
#162 Backstory of the Poem
by Janice D Soderling
Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form? The many deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean weighed, and weighs, heavily on my mind. It can seem insensitive to write about the suffering of others, no matter how much you empathize. I had already written a number of poems on this theme but was/am constantly reminded of it.
Writing, all writing, for me at least, occurs on two levels: the conscious (where I am aware of active choices) and the subconscious (which flows and is the text mass my consciousness later adjusts and revises).
Usually, not always, I analyze the finished poem and see what I’ve done. And one revelation I had during analysis was that this poem has the same meter and introduction (without my being aware of it when writing) of a sea poem I memorized as a child: “The Wreck of the Hesperus" by Longfellow (Above Right), which begins:
It was the schooner Hesperus
That sailed a wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.
When I came to realize this, I was in a quandry about whether or not to keep it as written. Longfellow probably chose this meter, consciously or not, because it rises and falls like the waves of the sea. Moreover, the Hesperus poem is internalized in the minds of every American poet (at least the elder formalists and all serious craftsmen) and its echo of tragedy at sea would do a great deal of work for me in mood creation. I have handwritten drafts showing that my initial first lines did not know where they were going. (Above Left: STANLEY MASSEY ARTHURS (American, 1877-1950) "The Wreck of Hesperus," 1908 Oil on canvas)
My revisions (Right) always pay particular attention to musicality, wherein sounds are echoed in nearby words.
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. Iwasinalllikelihood in my home, on my living room sofa, while writing the two hand-written drafts, but once I get hot Ialwaysmoveupstairs to my office computer because I work faster and have better overview.
My handwriting is atrocious. All my reference books, dictionaries, thesauri are in my office too. Google is speedy, nice for facts, but sometimes superficial where writing tools are concerned. Both these rooms are full of books, well, so is every room in my house.
I live in a small Swedish village near a large forest (Above Left), though I grew up in rural Indiana.
What month and year did you start writing this poem? I’m not sure, likely the fall of 2015; the first submission was April 23, 2016. Five editors foolishly turned it down, though my notes say that one sent a “nice reply”, and another “a very nice reply”. (Right: Janice D Soderling in the Summer of 2016)
How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?)Two handwritten, but probably many, many on the computer. I count each read-through and alteration, if only a comma change, as a draft. I always return after letting a poem lie overnight, sometimes a new read-through several days in a row.
Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version? And can you share them with us?Oh, yes. Theylre were some quite awful ones.
The ship that sails from war to –
The ship that sails and never
She never docks at any port
or stops at any shore
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?The tragedy of our callous era, that thousands of men, women and children flee violence only to drown in what the Romans called Mare Nostrum. The unbearable sorrow that these vulnerable souls seeking refuge find no compassion but are turned away, forcibly returned home or placed in tent cities. There are more than seventy million displaced persons in the world at present.
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?When I read this in public, it is always hard to keep my voice steady at the line “War and hunger are no more” (Left: Janice D Soderling doing a poetry reading in January of 2020)
Has this poem been published before? And if so where?It was eventually accepted by New Verse News just after two tragedies hours apart: on January 11, 2020 a boat whose passengers included eight children sank off the Turkish coast, another went down off the Greek isle of Chios.
Janice D. Soderling has published hundreds of poems and assorted prose in international literary journals. (Left: Janice D Soderling in Sweden in October of 2016)
Some of her work has been published in Spanish translation, also set to music and recorded, and several times presented in videos.
Prizes and awards include first prize for short fiction at Glimmer Train Stories, the Harald Witt Memorial Award from Blue Unicorn, Woman Artist of the Year from the Swedish organization “Foundation for Creative and Artistic Women”.
Her most recent publication was a chapbook: “WAR: Make That City Desolate".