Monday, January 14, 2019

#60 Backstory of the Poem "Menopause" by Pat Durmon

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***This is the sixtieth 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. 
Bottom Left:  Pat Durmon on January 12, 2019.  Copyright permission granted by Pat Durmon for this CRC Blog Post Only

#60 Backstory of the Poem
by Pat Durmon

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?   
A casual comment by a woman led to the creation of this poem. I heard her tell how her husband remarked on her hot flashes being like a burning bush. The observation resonated with me because my husband had made similar remarks as he grazed my arm or wanted to snuggle.

I had no intention of writing a poem about this subject, but after pondering it for some days, I realized how universal the subject was. Men, having to deal with women’s hot flashes throughout menopausal years; women, having to live through their bodies building fires, smoldering, then dying out.
Unlike most of my poems, the title came first. I knew what the poem was about. I did not know where it was going.  I started the poem with my situation for at least 15 years (in 2004 Right). I was overheated. Women who knew me gave advice and laughed heartily. They knew I was headed into a forest fire. Then, I just reported how my body grew heat when I would lie down. I went on with the long night, my misery, the burning.   
I was a hot surface. Touch was the last thing I wanted. It would be pretty stupid if you did not understand that I needed space, not closeness.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?   I wrote “Menopause” in 2016 (Left) and won a First Place in a monthly contest with it in Poets Roundtable of Arkansas.

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?) Before entering that contest, the poem had undergone about 15 or more revisions. I edit a poem to get rid of the weeds. It takes weeks and sometimes months. I have to let it get cold, then edit again. I send my poems to two or more critique groups. It may be that someone in the critique group suggests a minor or major change. I listen to all suggestions, but I am clear that I own the poem. I may keep it as is or make changes. (Above Right:  Pat Durmon's writing space in her Arkansas home. Copyright permission granted by Pat Durmon for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?   Whatever women need to take for themselves from this poem, I am delighted to give it to them. Menopause is a rough stage for many of us. It helps if women know it is a stage of growing older, but it is something we age out of. I think I started when I was forty (Left) and it eased up 15 years later when I said, “Praise the Lord!
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?   The lines “I don’t understand how I build my own heat and smolder” gave me permission to take the poem any direction I wanted to. I went to my husband’s reactions and then how I was alone with the burning.     At the end, I saw the irony in it all. It was then that I could add a little fun to it like the woman laughing at her husband (Pat with hubby Right)  
Anything you would like to add?   This poem had a lifecycle in its making. In it, I revisited all those years of being in midlife and living with menopause. Like a teen living through adolescence, nothing about menopause requires forgiveness. (Left:  Pat Durmon with her dog in June of 2016.  Copyright permission granted by Pat Durmon for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
 It just is what it is. Biologists can explain it, but women carry a mystery most really don’t care to understand themselves when going through the burning fire. They just want to survive menopause. That’s the part I hoped to capture.
I wrote this poem after publishing three books. I needed to write poems about common miracles, what I thought would be my fourth book. Instead, I was writing girl/woman poems. I just couldn’t seem to write about anything else. Because of that, I put the Common Miracles manuscript aside and let my muse have her way. I stopped fighting with myself about poems and wrote more poems to be published in Women, Resilient Women in 2018.  This poem will be included in Women, Resilient Women in 2018.   
The poem, as I look at it now, is part of my feminine history, but I find myself still attracted to it. In fact, it is the poem I read aloud to a group of women one week ago. (Right:  Spring in April of 2017.  Attribution and copyright permission granted by Pat Durmon for this CRC Blog Post Only) 


My body stays overheated
like the world news. I am told
by bold, honest women
to get ready for a forest fire.

In January, I lie down
beside my husband, and my body
is certain it’s high July.

I don’t understand how I build
my own heat and smolder.

My husband’s hand grazes
my arm. He jerks it back, saying
I’m smoking, saying I’m hot like
a burning bush.

In the long night without end,
I try to lie quiet, picture icebergs,
pray. Burning questions
dum-ditty-dum in my bones,
keeping me on a red edge.

Another lightning flash.

I’ll just burst into flames.

Pat Durmon is the author of four poetry books: Blind Curves (2007), Lights and Shadows in a Nursing Home (2013), Push Mountain Road (2015), Women, Resilient Women (2018).  Poems have been published by Rattle, Main Street Rag, Poetry East, Encore, Cyclamens and Blades, Between the Lines, Lucidity, Cantos, and other journals. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. Pat Durmon is a speaker and blogger: 
She taught school in Jonesboro, Arkansas before obtaining her Ed.S. Degree in counseling at Arkansas State University.  She and a business partner were the first women to open a private counseling practice in Jonesboro. Her writing reflects her various careers, miracles she notes in the ordinary, her depth and playfulness. Pat currently facilitates two on-going and open groups: 
Searching for Light (support group for families who deal with dementia/grief) and Sisters Journey Group (spiritual growth group). She also speaks at Home Poetry Readings in her surrounding area.  She is a native Arkansan and lives in the Ozarks with her husband and two dogs. She sees herself as lighter and more joyful after writing a blog or poem.


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

054  December 29, 2018
by Gene Barry

055 January 2, 2019
by Larissa Shmailo

056  January 7, 2019
“The Seamstress:
by Len Kuntz

057  January 10, 2019
"Natural History"
by Camille T Dungy

058  January 11, 2019
by Brian Burmeister

059  January 12, 2019
by Clint Margrave

060 January 14, 2019
by Pat Durmon


  1. This is a woman's poem, for sure, but this stage of our lives affects the men-folks too. : )

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