Friday, December 28, 2018

#53 Backstory of the Poem "Grand Finale" by Renuka Raghavan

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***This is the fifty-third in a 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. 

#53 Backstory of the Poem
“Grand Finale”
by Renuka Raghavan

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 original conception of this poem began while I was with my family at a local planetarium watching a show called Cassini’s Grand Finale, where NASA scientists from California’s JPL were explaining the last set of pictures sent to Earth before the satellite plunged into Saturn. That night, I dreamed I died on the satellite. (Above Right:  Kevin Gill's concept of Cassini's controlled atmospheric entry into Saturn.  CCBY2.0)

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail.   I have a desk at the back of my family room, where I usually write. I began typing out this poem—the dream from the night before, fresh in my mind— while listening to “O Fortuna” in the background. It all felt very apocalyptic, which spilled into the poem, I think.

My writing nook, (Right) is comfortable and joyfully cluttered. I have drafts of current work and past work scattered about. Also on the desk, you’ll find my daughter’s math homework and my son’s spelling homework. It’s the family’s catch-all place, and contrary to what you might think, it’s very conducive to writing!

What month and year did you start writing this poem?   September 2017
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 had about 3 drafts of this poem, before I was happy with the final version. While I usually write out my drafts on paper before typing them out, this one was typed out from the beginning, and I made changes to the document in Word at each revision. Sadly, no cool pictures of paper pock-marked with editing tags.

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?   The whole second stanza was not there in my first writing of this poem, also the fourth stanza was the second stanza. I presented a draft of this poem to a writing group, and there were many comments wondering how the “we” and “you” connected to the satellite. They wanted a little more to the story, hence the birth of the second stanza. I also got some feedback about needing the word “yellow” to describe a school bus. Some thought it was unnecessary and superfluous. Ultimately, I liked the extra detail, and decided “yellow” needed to stay.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?    As morose as it may sound, I enjoy poems that are written with a melancholic beauty: sad poems written with language and images that are anything but. That’s the feeling I was trying to evoke in this poem.  A somber, wistful elegance…with a little hypnagogic surrealism thrown in for good measure.
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?   The end. The last stanza, still gets me when I read this out loud. It’s emotional because even if there was a chance that this could happen in real life, my husband (Right) would be right there on the satellite with me.

Has this poem been published before? And if so where?   “Gran Finale” was published by the incomparable, Nixes Mate Review, Issue 7, Spring 2018.

Anything you would like to add?   Dissecting the craft behind the poem was fun. Thanks for this opportunity, Christal. And thanks for everything you do to support writers!

Grand Finale

I dreamt of you last night.
We were standing on a giant satellite,
the size of a yellow school bus.
How did we get here, you asked?
It was always the plan, I answered.
We’ve been preparing ourselves
for the past ten years.
We embraced,
our bodies locked. We were
buoyant and feather light, tethered
only to each other and the
rocketing satellite.
The vast universe shining behind us,
was the canvas we painted in radiant golds and silvers,
en route to our destination.
We stood side by side,
hand in hand,
watching particles and rings fly by
as we barreled into Saturn’s glowing heart.
On this, Cassini’s grand finale,
we can be as we want, my love,
knowing full well we will
never again touch the ground.

Renuka Raghavan tends to focus on brief, dramatic prose and poetry. She is the author of Out of the Blue, a collection of short fiction and poetry.  Renuka serves as the Fiction book reviewer at Červená Barva Press, and is a co-founder of the Poetry Sisters Collective. She writes and lives in Massachusetts with her family and beloved beagle.
Twitter: @RenukaRag


001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

027  August 13, 2018
Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018
Connie Post’s “Two Deaths”

029  August 30, 2018
Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd”

030 September 16, 2018
Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”

031  September 24, 2018
Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018
Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018
Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa”

034  October 17, 2018
David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven”

035 October 23, 2018
Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety”

036  October 30, 2018
Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast”

037  November 04, 2018
Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018
Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018
Gordon Hilger’s “Poe”

040 November 16, 2018
Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams”

041 November 20, 2018
Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting”

042 November 22, 2018
Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain”

043  November 27, 2018
Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers”

044 November 30, 2018
Jonathan P Taylor’s “This poem is too neat”

045  December 03, 2018
Ian Haight’s “Sungmyo for our Dead Father-in-Law”

046 December 06, 2018
Nancy Dafoe’s “Poem in the Throat”

047 December 11, 2018
Jeffrey Pearson’s “Memorial Day”

048  December 14, 2018
Frank Paino’s “Laika”

049  December 15, 2018
Jennifer Martelli’s “Anniversary”

O50  December 19, 2018
Joseph Ross’s For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014”

051 December 23, 2018
“The Persistence of Music”
by Anatoly Molotkov

052  December 27, 2018
“Under Surveillance”
by Michael Farry

053  December 28, 2018
“Grand Finale”
by Renuka Raghavan

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