Friday, January 25, 2019

#63 Backstory of the Poem "The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh" by Gail Wronsky

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***This is the sixty-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. 

#63 Backstory of the Poem
“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”
by Gail Wronsky

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?   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?  
For the poems in my newest book, IMPERFECT PASTORALS, I used lines from Virgil (Right Bottom) as titles, so my process was to find a line I found inspiring, and start from there.  I found the line about the heron and it seemed perfect for a poem I had wanted to write about living in Topanga Canyon and never wanting to leave it—my lethargy and reluctance—and how that sometimes breeds some conflict in my marriage.  I remember that the first part of the poem came quite easily.  I stopped for a while after that, after “The/anchoring point of a marriage is mythical.”  
When I returned to the poem I was in a sassier mood, not quite so abstract, and that took me to “comb-over makeover.”  Then I broadened the scope to take in the beach that’s pretty near me, where I’ve seen herons, and I read a chapter in a bird book about herons, where I got the quote.  As you can see, I stayed with the sassy attitude right up to the end of the poem

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.  I have a little detached studio by my house that is my study.  It’s just a shed, basically, unfinished inside—just bare wood—and a lot of books.  I have a long tiled desk top—it used to be the top of a coffee table—sitting on file cabinets.  
I look out a window at Topanga State Park—very green and hilly.  I’m high above the traffic on my busy street, and can’t be seen by any neighbors.  I love the hidden aspect of it.  My desk is cluttered with books and drafts of poems.  I’m always reading five or six books at a time.
What month and year did you start writing this poem?   I think it was February 2015. (Right)
 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 don’t keep drafts, so I can’t share any.  I make changes to my poems constantly, though.  
There were probably 50 or more revisions to this poem—from little things to getting rid of whole lines and stanzas.  I do remember changing “motorcycle jacket” to “leather coat.”  I think leather coat is a little more mysterious, less predictable.  Like Bryan Ferry (Left), not Marlon Brando.

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?   Don’t have them anymore, unfortunately.  I just tend not to want to revisit all of my stumbling along the way

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?   I want them to have a few serious moments about marriages, and getting stuck in marriages, and how they limit us in some ways, and then just have a good time with the notion of somebody who doesn’t want to leave home, someone who’s like a heron in a nest.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?   Again, it was the line “The/anchoring point of a marriage is mythical.”  This was hard for me to say because actually I’m in a very good marriage, and do feel anchored, but I wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t the marriage keeping me house-bound.  
Also, it was hard to write disparagingly about the ocean, which I love, but for the purposes of this poem it, too, had to feel like a trap.
Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?   It was only published in my book IMPERFECT PASTORALS.

Anything you would like to add?   I think it’s very hard to talk about process—so much of it is intuitive, after 40 years of writing poetry—so much of it is done unconsciously, without conscious thinking.  You just know when something is right, even if it’s not logically connected to the previous line.  You know when the poem has done what it can do on the page.  And you move on to the next one.

The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh

Let me go, domestic air, inner conflict and anarchism. 
Let me replace

the thick veil of separation
with a thinner veil.  The

anchoring point of a marriage is mythical.  Catch me
off-guard and slip out for some whiskey

why don’t you--

I’m not the one in the leather coat and the
comb-over makeover.

Over me the wind’s dumb moan, beside
me the foam and glitter of the Pacific.  The

heron has “one of the most begrudging avian takeoffs.” 

Oh fucking hell I’ll go. Have I had a tetanus shot?  Not
for years. 

Gail Wronsky is the author, coauthor, or translator of many books of poetry and prose, among them Dying for Beauty (Copper Canyon Press), Poems for Infidels (Red Hen Press), and So Quick Bright Things (What Books Press).  

Her translation of Alicia Partnoy’s book Fuegos Florales (Flowering Fires) recently won the American Book Prize from Settlement House Press.  Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous anthologies including Poets Against War; A Chorus for Peace; Wide Awake:  the Poetry of Los Angeles and Beyond; The Black Body; and Coiled Serpent.   
Her poems, translations, and reviews have appeared in journals including Poetry; Boston Review; Antioch Review; Colorado Review; Denver Quarterly; Crazyhorse, Virginia Quarterly Review; Volt; Lana Turner; and Pool.  

Gail has been a Resident Playwright at Sundance Institute ( and has had plays produced in Washington, DC; Salt Lake City; and Los Angeles.  She is a recipient of an Artists Fellowship from the California Arts Council.  In 2015 she was one of four finalists for the position of Poet Laureate of Los Angeles.  
She is a member of the Glass Table Arts Collective, has an MFA from the University of Virginia and a PhD from the University of Utah, and teaches creative writing and women’s literature at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


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 CafĂ©”

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

061 January 19, 2019
“Neptune’s Choir”
by Linda Imbler

062  January 22, 2019
“Views From the Driveway”
by Amy Barone

063  January 25, 2019
“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”
by Gail Wronsky

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