April 8, 2020

REVISIONS MASTERCLASS: SARAH VENART, ORIGAMI



This post introduces a Poetry Month feature series with Sarah Venart, who walks us through the revisions history of some of the poems from her forthcoming book, I Am the Big Heart (Brick 2020). Comments and questions are welcome. What do you see changing as the poem develops?


Sarah Venart
ORIGAMI

At night I close my eyes and let my thoughts
become my feelings, let my feelings point their corners

into dark corners. I fold the word daughter
over and over until it contains the word duty.

I’ve heard there’s a Kenyan tribe that makes paper
by filling their mouths with dust and water.

They flatten that paste onto stones and fold it
into envelopes they send to Japan

where eleven-year-old Siberian girls
wait in tiny pleated apartments to be models.

I pull at the skin and the fat
on my hip bones, and the bones beneath

become sharp as hangers. Watching a thing
become another thing makes me hopeful: watching string

turn into the Eiffel tower
with only three fingers and a mouth pulling up its peak

is a mystery I should write down.
Instead, I’m here on my bed in the dark

watching this girl on YouTube demonstrate
Jacob’s ladder, witch’s broom, cat’s cradle.

Her hands are so deft. Her transformations effortless.
In real time they twist away and vanish.


REVISION HISTORY

(creation: late 2014)
Origami / Cat’s-Cradle Digression (later became ORIGAMI)

Sometimes at night I don’t try to get up
and get it down, one poem folds into
the crease of another connection, they
point their corners into other
corners: the word daughter almost certainly
contains the word duty when you fold it so— xxxxxxxxxThere is a Kenyan
tribe, they take dust in their mouths, make paper from it
send it to Japan where eleven-year-old Siberian
girls wait in tiny pleated apartments
to be models. Is it not true that watching
a thing become another thing— xxxxxwatching string for that matter
turn into the Eiffel tower with only three fingers
and a mouth pulling at its peak— is also art?
I don’t always write them down. xxxxI watch
this girl on YouTube demonstrate
Jacob’s Ladder, witch’s broom, cradle for a tiny cat,
with hands so small the connections are effortless
in front of me in real time, being made and vanishing.


(Spring 2019 revision)

Origami, with Cat’s-Cradle Digression

Sometimes at night I don’t try to get up
and get it down. One poem folds into the crease
of another, then they point their corners into other corners:  the word daughter 
almost certainly contains the word duty
when you fold it so.                There is a Kenyan tribe,
they fill their mouths with dust, make paper from it, send it
to Japan where eleven-year-old Siberian girls wait
in tiny pleated apartments to be models.

Isn’t it true that watching a thing become another thing,
watching string turn into the Eiffel tower
with only three fingers and a mouth pulling up its peak
is also art?       I don’t write the poems down. Instead, I watch
this girl on YouTube demonstrate Jacob’s ladder, witch’s broom,
cat’s cradle, with hands so deft the transformations are effortless—
in front of me in real time, twisting away and vanishing.


(Summer 2019 revision)
Origami, with Cat’s-Cradle Digression

Sometimes at night I don’t try to get up
and get it down. One page folds into the crease
of another, then they point their corners
into other corners: the word daughter almost certainly
contains the word duty when you fold it so.  
There’s a Kenyan tribe, they fill their mouths
with dust, make paper from it, send it
to Japan where eleven-year-old Siberian girls
wait in tiny pleated apartments to be models.

Isn’t it true that watching a thing become another thing,
watching string turn into the Eiffel tower
with only three fingers and a mouth pulling up its peak
is also art? I don’t write things like this down.
Instead, I watch this girl on YouTube demonstrate
Jacob’s ladder, witch’s broom, cat’s cradle,
with hands so deft the transformations are effortless—
in front of me in real time, twisting away, vanishing.

(November 2019 second revision. I fought for this one.)
Origami

At night I close my eyes and let my thoughts
become my feelings, let my feelings point their corners

into dark corners, so that the word daughter,
when I fold it, contains the word duty.

I’ve heard there’s a Kenyan tribe that makes paper
by filling their mouths with dust and water.

They flatten that paste onto stones and fold it
into envelopes they send to Japan

where eleven-year-old Siberian girls
wait in tiny pleated apartments to be models.

I pull at the skin and the fat
on my hip bones, and the bones beneath

become sharp as hangers. Watching a thing
become another thing makes me hopeful. Watching string

turn into the Eiffel tower
with only three fingers and a mouth pulling up its peak

is a mystery I should write down.
Instead, I’m here on my bed in the dark

watching this girl on YouTube demonstrate
Jacob’s ladder, witch’s broom, cat’s cradle.

Her hands are so deft. Her transformations are effortless
in front of me.  In real time they twist away and vanish.






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