If you’ve been following me for the last couple of weeks on this blog, you’ll know that I’m working on an epic poetry book that my wife’s going to illustrate. I don’t know how this is going to end. Maybe badly, maybe well.
Last week, I’d decided on writing about a camping trip that Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir took through the Sierras. I thought I’d do research on it this week. The research that you do for a poetry collection is different than what you’d do for an essay in school. That’s true for me at least.
Eventually, I will read books of course, but I started by talking to some of the people in the forestry service whom I work with. I’ll be teaching a poetry class in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and I stole some of their time to talk about Muir and Roosevelt.
It was an informative conversations, informative enough for me to change my mind about the project. There’s not enough there, not enough drama or time for 200-400 sonnets. Ah well. So I have to shift and revise.
So where do I go? Well, what I liked about the project was that it told the story of one of those things that truly unified the United States: the national parks system. It was one of those things that made us see ourselves in a federal way. Okay, so I’m going to switch my focus a big and tell the story of California, and that’s a story of water.
My main characters will be John Muir and William Mulholland. Both were fascinating figures, and Mulholland was tragic and a complicated man. His ethical life was fascinating, and if you’re not obsessed by Muir and all that he did, you need to read about him. An amazing person.
Anyway, this is the first major shift of the project from my point of view. The working title? “Water.” That’s not a good title to end with, but it will keep me focused.