Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 8, 2013

Nudging Up the Volume Control

Choosing the genre of poetry and the history of science as a subject means I’m not working on a voice that wallops and whoops across the page. I’m not chronicling Star Trek-ish voyages through space with aliens, enemy galaxies, and big bangs, but trying for baby steps forward that reflect most scientists’ un-dramatic commitment, quiet camaraderie, and the rare Eureka. Living a pretty quiet life has given me a place to note the changes within the small, and giving such attention in my manuscript. I’m not envisioning a huge audience, who might go for a book that bounces and pops and uses only a few attention-grabbing words, but a special one, the kind of readers who can get overlooked by adults tending to drama, while  the quieter kids manage or stew.

Not now, though within the quiet arena I’ve chosen, I want movement. I don’t want to neglect plot. I start out with research that calls for caffeine, skimming for images that shine from the page.  I collect those rare gems and look for what they have in common to build scenes, or ways they contrast to make a scene or two clash. Then it’s time for herbal tea, and slowly building lines and stanzas. When I come back to revise, I try to be as brisk and ruthless as I was when I hunted for information, cutting where eyelids might take the chance to droop.

Can I make a poem like a painting that provokes a gasp at a glance, yet reveals more for those who linger? Can each poem within my book be complete in itself while moving the way a chapter should, advancing the story? I’m trying to shape work that doesn’t ask readers to squint to see how the end differs from the beginning. Taking small steps that urge readers to take leaps or ask big questions.

For more Poetry Friday posts, please visit Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.



  1. It’s certainly satisfying to write something that encourages readers to explore the big issues, yet still retains a certain simplicity. Keep going! We’re with you all the way.

    • Thank you for the cheers and company, and for putting my goal in your few well-chosen words, Diane.

  2. I love the different drinks for the different tasks! I tend to do this with music, faster, harder beats for drafting, a little Van Morrison and McGarrigle sisters for revising.

    • Yes, different levels of caffeine, different sounds, though I’m going to go with the McGarrigle sisters the whole way, with some Dar Williams and Dolly/Linda/Emmy Lou Trio. Even when I’m trying to go on the fast road, it’s not rock n roll.

  3. As you write about the different ways you wish to present the poem(s), as in “Can I make a poem like a painting that provokes a gasp at a glance, yet still reveal more for those who linger?” it causes me to wonder about the effect of the different voices that show different ideas, yet, like a chorus, the effect together is also another communication. Just thinking… And BTW, I am ‘lingering’ over your book, loving each page, Jeannine!

    • I love this, Linda: a chorus of voices is different than any one individual and almost always special. And thank you for the “BTW.” Makes my day!

  4. Sometimes I don’t mind mentally “squinting” when it helps me to real see and appreciate the journey.

    • Oh, definitely there is a time for squinting, and a time for wide open eyes; a time to rush, a time to slow down: writing is complicated!

      Thank you for stopping by!

  5. You write so beautifully about your writing! It can’t help but be beautiful (whether caffeine or herbal), too!

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