Creating a blackout poem according to someone’s request is such a different experience than doing it for no one but myself. I have to keep her expectations in mind as I search pages for words, rather than just letting the page take me where it wants to go. I’ve been working on a poem for someone now, and it’s such a satisfying process.
My usual process is to first find words on a page, then search through my clippings from various coloring books and find an image that matches the tone of my selected words and also fits on the page without obscuring any of the words. “A Woman’s Blood” was created with that process. At times, as in “Waiting,” the poem was inspired by the image: I felt an emotion from the image and searched for a page that contained a few words that might express that emotion, then set to work on blacking out the page.
For my first real made-to-order poem, I first thought about the image.
The person who ordered the poem requested an image of a girl. Working with images of people is different than working with images of flowers or birds or other embellishments. A person’s stance, facial expressions, etc – they all affect the poem’s meaning and look on the page. Even more than images of birds and flowers that inspire emotional reactions in me, images of people speak to me, and the poem needs to tell their stories.
I sifted through the images I had and found a few images of girls. I spread them out before me and “listened” to them. A few were quite obviously not right for this project, and I set them aside. One seemed appropriate, so I stuck it in the book I was reading and carried it around with me for a few days, using it as a bookmark as I tried to settle in and get a feel for whether it was the right image.
It didn’t feel quite right, though I had ideas about words I could search for, so I went back to my clippings.
And then I found it – the perfect image, no question.
I turned next to the text. As with the image, it took longer to find the exactly right words. The request had been for a Hebrew poem, so I began with a haggadah. I found a page and began to underline words in pencil, as I usually do.
The poem moved in a different direction than what I’d been aiming for. Normally, this would be fine. When I’m working without a firm direction, I let the words take me wherever they want to go, as I do with the images. But this time, I had to stay on track.
So I switched texts. I set aside the haggadah (that poem will perhaps serve as its own post here on the blog sometime), and picked up my siddur. I flipped through the pages, slowly, and looked for a page with text that looked right (since the siddur’s text varies widely in size throughout), and with words that could be used for the poem’s purpose.
When I settled on a page, I underlined and erased a few variations of words, until – everything clicked. The words were there…. They match the image, they say something that fulfills the request, and they are a part of me. They fulfill the request I’d gotten, through an expression of myself.
My next step is deciding on the colors of the blackout. The colors for the image were clear to me (pictured below), but I’m still not sure of the color scheme for the poem itself.
It’s exhilarating. It’s a whole different process and feeling than creating a poem with no real goal. It takes longer, and in many ways – it’s more satisfying 🙂