April 12, 2016

Thursday, April 5, 2012

30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets #5: Liz Moser on Anchoring

There's a strange thing that happens sometimes, when I have an idea for a poem. I jot down a quick note -- only enough to record the idea -- and I wait.

Several months ago I heard a segment on NPR about the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. One of the nearby residents was interviewed and talked about the accident. Leaves in the area turned silver from the chemical fall-out. That image has stayed with me. But I have a sense that I'm not ready to write about it yet. The image is there, but it's floating, ungraspable. What metaphor can I build around those silver leaves, to take them from image to poem?
A tree surviving near Chernobyl --
I call this process "anchoring." What makes this image resonate for me? What do I want to say about it? Answering these questions is important. It's how I build the chain from fleeting idea to poem.

Maryland poet Liz Moser is visiting today. Her poem beautifully describes the process of anchoring.

Today I Nearly Drowned
by Liz Moser

Today I nearly drowned.
I was awash in
phrases, half-told stories, torn half-pages,
half-thoughts scribbled onto memo pads and envelopes.
Organize, to organize, I told myself as contents spilled
upon my chair, my rug, upon my laptop
lazing in unwritten words
that float on oceans of my mind.
One day, perhaps, my thoughts will be as ordered as the tide:
they’ll flow across a printed page in measured waves.
They will not sink into the sand of memory,
or dissipate in frothy chaos at my feet --
waves that splash across the beaches into streams.
My dreams will drift in ponds where booted men can cast their nets,
catch my reflections as they shimmer in the sun.
But not just yet, no, not until the flood
of vaporous ideas has settled in the mud
of days already lived but not yet understood.

Posted with permission.

Liz Moser writes poetry, fiction, essays, book reviews and memoirs. Her chapbook, Spirit Pond and Other Maine Poems focuses on mid-coast Maine. Other published works reflect her Maryland upbringing and residence. She received a 2003 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference fiction award and The Potomac Review’s 2002 Poetry Prize.

Tomorrow, we celebrate the first Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month with Diane Mayr of Random Noodling. 


Robyn Hood Black said...

I nodded through this whole post - thank you, Laura and Liz. Love the longed-for image:
"they’ll flow across a printed page in measured waves."
And the last line is so true, so true.

Tabatha said...

All I can say is "Yes."

Have to save this in my e-poetry journal.