January 28, 2013

Blind Pig: Distilling the Language

Lorine Niedecker called making poems "condensery."  It's true; poems must be distilled.  The language is compressed, and poets use line breaks and enjambment in order to create ambiguity and add meaning.  My mother was born right before Prohibition.  Many people built their own stills, called Blind Pigs, and distilled their own liquor. It was illegal, and the results uneven, but it happened.  The image of a still comes to mind when I think about the process of turning language into poems. One must take lessons in compression.

After writing long pages, start the process: practice reduction. Be ruthless. Take out any extra words or phrases. Everybody uses a different recipe. I began in paragraphs, but then boiled it down. This is a first draft of the poem that became one of the poems in  my book Night Train Red Dust.

Blind Pig

Make ruinous beauty
in imaging
pare it down –

find the essence.
If moon, then only

continuous rough music
of verb and noun
to shine that road upon the lake

trouble the tongue
keep sonorous secrets.
Work double duty

to intoxicate
delete and de-

expand the seems
increase the proof.

Pour off the mind
into wild gleams.

©2013 Sheila Packa

Lessons in Compression

Read the work of Lorine Niedecker

Tips on Revision: line breaks and enjambment

Poetic Compression by James Longenbach

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