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?) I really can’t say how many drafts I wrote. Once I have a solid start, I move to working on my computer and I don’t keep track of versions but, rather, simply keep revising the one so that it transforms as I work.
This, and all the other instances of truly terrible writing I “commit,” is a perfect example of what happens in the revision process—which is, for me, what writing is really all about. I simply adore revising and can spend untold hours at it. I look for clichés, easy language, awful and/or awkward similes, metaphors and syntax. I play with form and punctuation and keep trying to push the boundaries of the poem further.
This is the time when my head really gets into the eye of the hurricane, so to speak—a place where all the noise and tumult vanishes and my mind has free rein to associate the seemingly unassociated. It’s a place where surprises happen!
Revising is largely a very fun endeavor for me, though, after a few days of working on a single poem nearly non-stop, I can relate to a quote that is (perhaps apocryphally) attributed to Oscar Wilde (Right): "I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out."
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? For me, the question is more properly stated as what I hope a reader will take from the poem…that being said, here’s what I‘ll say about this question.
Of course, I want to tell Laika’s (Left) story… but I also know that, on the face of it, most people would tend to vilify Dr. Yazdovsky and leave it at that. In this piece; however, I hope to convey he wasn’t an inhuman monster.
The poem’s epigraph is indicative of this, but, really, for me, it’s the fact he was so insistent on adding a window to Sputnik 2 (Right: Model of Sputnik 2). Misguided as it may have been, he wanted to give Laika something he thought might soothe her on her final, horrific journey. Rather than being in a dimly-lit capsule, she’d at least be able to see something. Granted, I doubt that was really of any comfort to her, but I think that’s beside the point. It’s his intention that counts. And that goes for taking Laika home so she could play with his daughters, too.
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? That’s a difficult question because the entire story is so appalling and heartbreaking. But when I really stop to think about it, it would have to be:
I suppose that’s the worst part of Laika’s (Left) story. I can’t claim to know the level of sentience dogs have, but I am confident they understand love and kindness. I’m sure Laika came to trust Dr. Yazdovsky, regardless of the small enclosures he put her in, the loud noises he accustomed her to, etc.. He still fed her, played with her, petted her, etc.. Betraying that trust is the most terrible and tragic aspect—even beyond what I am sure were the appalling final moments of her life.
As I understand it, the plan was not to leave Laika to die from the heat/fire inside the capsule (Left). There are various versions of the story—but all seem to agree the scientists knew she would never come back alive, but the intention was to somehow kill her painlessly after some time, either with sedative-laced food or water, or even some sort of mechanism that would deliver a lethal injection.
Anything you would like to add? The most important person in my life is my twin sister, Gerrie. (Below) We have a bond that is magical, irrevocable and profound. Other than that, I have a handful of dear friends who give my life another dimension and richness I cherish.
Also, Thanks to Luke Hankins (http://lukehankins.net/),
editor extraordinaire and all-around great guy, my third book, Obscura, is forthcoming from Orison Books (https://orisonbooks.com/) in late 2019 or early 2020
Frank Paino’s “Laika”