Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Poetry Dictation

I often write while driving, especially on highway trips. The lines come in my head as the scenery glides past, and when enough of the lines have collected, I usually pull over at a rest stop, or in a parking lot, or at a storm ditch, and write them down. On the drive back from Walla Walla Dean was with me, so I tried an experiment: dictating the lines to him as they came, without editing or revising or asking him to read them back.

I didn't look at what he captured until today: and some of it is pretty interesting. I may even have the makings of a long poem about Marcus Whitman, the Whitman Massacre, the Eastern Washington landscape, the new economy of wineries and wind farms, etc., all blended together. Looking at what's there, it's a little like when you get up in the morning and read the things you wrote as you were falling asleep the night before. Dreamy, incoherent, occasionally full of crap, occasionally full of light.

Here are a few of the lines:

You believed you were called to do the Lord’s work, heal the sick, teach the heathen, till the arth.

You with your mercuries and iodines, your mustard salves and unguents. Your plow and scythe.

It’s amazing what faith and a little water can do.

That furrow in the ground that was the Oregon Trail now a four lane highway.

A long haul truck with a load of apples lugs up the hill.
Carrying fruit from one desert to another.


Radish King said...

You are so brave to go back there Peter. I can never do it. Except for Beethoven. It drags my heart right down.

Peter said...

It was a wonderful road trip. I'd do it again.

Anonymous said...

unguents. what a fine word.

Peter said...

Thank you, Jilly. It feels good in the mouth, doesn't it? Unfortunately they're for external use only! hehehe

David Vincenti said...

Peter: Have you tried actually composing aloud? Most of my work is done this way. Advantages are you can compose faster (so if your your dreck-to-diamonds ratio is consistent, you get more diamonds). Also, I find immediate playback give me momentum to get over the points I get stuck on. I think it works for me because I consider rhythm and sound most important in my poems - I'll let structure on the page and even content suffer a little for a great phrase.

And you could just play the word "unguents" over and over and over and over....

Peter said...

Cool idea David. Esp if one could have a transcriptionist to do the typing. It'd be great to just have a freshly typed file of raw notes to work with. Though lately, I dunno, I can type almost as fast as I think.
A friend of mine, who is a Psych professor, uses voice recognition software to capture his notes and thoughts, to write his memos and papers, and seems to think the technology has advanced enough to be pretty accurate now.