This morning, it occurs to me that it’s possible I’m maturing as a writer. Not before time, some would say. The only proof that I can offer is that my projects are starting out as bigger ideas. I’ve always written poems one at a time, not with any thought to something thematic. Projects based on ideas take a lot more planning.
When I first started writing poems about Biblical women, it was an experiment in voices. I didn’t see it as a book project. I wrote a few, and then there was a gap, and then I’d write a few more. I began to think it could be a complete manuscript, and maybe it’s best that I didn’t see it that way all along. Most of us would be very hard pressed to list the names of enough Biblical women to make a collection.
Part of the aforementioned maturing may be a disturbing tendency to challenge myself. At first, I was just plucking characters here and there, and gradually I did start to think about how many I’d need to make a book. The answer made me think it might be cool to write the same number as there are books in the Bible. Sixty-six. Then, I wondered if I could make it structurally like the Bible, by choosing thirty-nine Old Testament voices and twenty-seven New. A significant amount of sifting had to take place, combing through a concordance and a Bible.
The thing is that these are such complex characters. I’m not creating an act of reverence at all because the fact is that many of the female characters are not the reverent type. They have their own gods, their own ambitions. By no means are they all meek and mild. Among them are spies, judges, killers, entrepreneurs, prophets, and whores. They’re terrific.
Thirty-six of the poems are written, so I have thirty to go. I have shortlisted the names, making note of the verse or two where each shows up. There isn’t a lot to go on, although sometimes secondary sleuthing is a boon. I learned a lot researching Herodias and Lydia. I’m coming to the end of the gathering stage and soon will get to the flat-out writing in order to finish.
I was worried that I’d have trouble sorting out the time, but about an hour ago, my poor brain, which never gets a rest, churned out the solution to that. I’ve got the two blocks of time already set aside, I see now, and one will be for the sixteen remaining New Testament figures and the other for the fourteen Old. I won’t know until the time comes which will step up to be written first.
The whole thing took on the look of a chore for awhile, but it’s back to being exciting. I need to keep making all these voices distinct from each other. That’s the last block of this maturing business, at least as far as this project is concerned. Anybody could just scribble out a batch of automatons. This crowd is going to end up as sixty-six girls we can tell apart.