“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
~ Carl Jung, Swiss psychologist and mystic
Guys, I apologize for my unruly behavior in getting these things up in a timely fashion. I know that I gripe a lot about the usual goings-on in my life, but for real, I do try to make this happen early in the day so that you have time to cogitate on the prompts, if you are in a cogitating mood. And equally for real, it has just been a shitstorm of a month. I know a lot of people have it worse, so I shouldn’t complain like I do, but when you have this low-level buzz of frustration in every aspect of your life, it wears you down after a while. You all know what I mean; we’ve all been there before, I think. NaPoWriMo is a wonderful thing, but that’s just one more aspect of life (writing) where I feel like somebody is just rubbing a key back and forth over my… muse, I guess, in this case.
There’s only a week to go, anyway, so I’m trying to think of some clever and creative ways for us all to work our craft a bit in the final days of the month. (And then, I think the best thing to do after the month ends is take one day and not write. You could revise, maybe, but just allow the spring to be spent.) Today, I’ve been taking my cue from the Mississippi, which — if you’re not familiar with how it looks — turns into the wriggliest serpent of a river as it gets down past Tennessee, into Arkansas/Mississippi territory. I could’ve called this prompt third, fourth, fifth… nth meander, since it seems to wind more than it doesn’t at a certain point. This is apparently normal for rivers to do when they enter large expanses of fairly flat plains: the things you learn on Wikipedia researching the longest extended metaphor you’ve ever kept up.
So let’s talk about how to draw inspiration from that concept. In previous “meander” prompts, I asked you to sidetrack from the momentum of thought you’d been building up to that point. But now we have a pretty solid spool of water unwound across the landscape, with your triplicate themes and images revolving around a common center, etc. (Or at least, I hope you do; if not, no time to throw those things together like the present!) Instead of swinging wide off-course, I want to suggest this, instead: let the images wrench you from side to side, as though you were a bowling ball and you’ve lined the lanes with bumpers. You can pick two fairly narrowly defined aspects of the thematic tissue holding your work together for this last week, and arrange them so that you’ll loop merrily between them on the way downstream. (But not with too much energy: a meander, after all, is a slow thing.) Say I stick with my pet example theme of biological process in the world again. I might have how flying things are born on one bank, and the surface colors of fauna on the other.
Then it becomes a matter of finding images that tick-tock back and forth from one thing to the next. I might start with the image of a cuckoo replacing an egg, then fade into camouflage to fool the nest mother which leads into birds being fledged, from which I might wax painterly on the colors of feathered things against the sky, zoom into some metaphor about souls and flying and the purpose of this beauty being different from viewer to viewer (but not forgetting about that cuckoo who kicked it all off)… and so on. It’s like playing poetic pinball, with you and your reader drifting over the field, then lurching back in another direction when you hit a particularly strong image. (Note that this doesn’t have to be as tight as a change every line, though it can be if you want: a list poem that alternates between themes works too.) But two things to bear in mind: stay linear so that you don’t jump the banks entirely, and make sure that the concluding lines of the poem are worth it. What is the synthesis of the angles you’ve chosen, what do they add up to? This is the counterpoint to the hard choices from yesterday; now you can have your cake and eat it, too, and then go back for more cake. As you reach the end of this wiggly wish-wash, you should feel a concluding relief.
And then, of course, you know what to do. Drop it in the comment box, hear?