Week 33

I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m writing a poetry collection about the creation of California. I’m trying to tell the story of water in California, what really made it what it is. Ann’s a visual artist, so she’s going to do the graphic art work for it.

Early on in this project I had envisioned this as a modern epic poem with each of the stanzas a petrarchan sonnet. That would have been great. It would have been sort of an ancient approach to the modern, and I hoped that it would give weight to history of California that is sometimes missing. After all the history of the people who have lived here is just as grand to them as the history of the people who lived in old Greece.

Well, that didn’t work out. The mixture of the epic and the story was just wrong. Maybe I’ll do it in the future. I don’t know. What I’ve been left with is a series of modern poems that has really morphed into my history with water in California. That’s all right. That’s a good subject quite frankly. I’m enjoying it, but it doesn’t have John Muir or William Mulholland or any of those early figures of water that are so fascinating.

In some ways that’s disappointing to me. That epic I envisioned is dead for now. Also, I spent all of the spring and most of the summer developing the idea and researching. All that work for a while felt like it had gone to nothing. Of course that’s not true. I like to research, and I loved learning all those new things about California. It’s a fascination.

And now, it’s come back. I’ve started to write short stories about this time. Flash fiction. When I write fiction, I generally have a much longer story. However, these are all coming out in 500 words or so. I think they’re short because I’d been thinking of my research in terms of poems. Now they’re coming up in moments of extreme emotion.

I suppose it goes to show that any work a writer does is going to come back to him. We filter every moment through our writing and this research is absolutely no different. It is a joy, and now I’m loving these short stories the way I have loved my poetry.