"How do you know when you are finished with a piece of writing?"—Evie, age 10 Evie, you've asked a stumper. I wish I had a clear, concrete ... Read More
I find that some writings come together relatively quickly. Others I tinker with off and on for years before I’m satisfied. And still others languish in a state of stunted realization perpetually, perhaps never to be completed. I find this equally true of stories, songs, poems, and essays. I have fragments of up to 40,000 words languishing (or percolating) on the backburners of these hard drives. Some are perhaps only the initial workings out of an idea that eventually finds incarnation in some other form or piece. But others seem to be their own thing, such that either I will one day bend them to conclusion, or they will simply sink into the peat bog of the half-finished and the forgotten and the might-have-been.
In celebration of the not-fully-realized, I offer the following found poem. This is one I created some time back, probably ten years ago, limiting my source material to a single page from a history textbook. I never had the settled sense that the poem was complete though, so I never did anything with it. In looking back at it now, I concur with my initial instinct. This poem still needs one or two additional closing lines; some sort of clincher that ties it all up or brings the reader to a new place. Even so, I like what it is and where it’s going.
I no longer have any notion of what I did with the original textbook. If I stumble across it in my basement someday, I’ll try to land the ending. In the lingering meantime, I offer it as a snapshot of a found poem in progress.
[For a brief explanation of “found poetry” please see the earlier Rabbit Room post The City Our Eyes Cannot See.]
A found poem created from the source text: America: Changing Times Since 1865 pg. 663, Charles Dollar, editor
They were hurting. Long after the war ended,
they were hurting. After months of bitter
debate, the conviction was growing that
they were hurting.
As years went by, panic turned in
to a severe depression. They tried
to get and retain power, but without
much success. They tried to work harder
and longer, but the crunch made little
difference to anyone.
They tried to hoard a solution to their ills (This
action failed to end the depression).
The liquor question played upon these and
other weaknesses. The result was
a disaster: They were hurting.
The most enduring problem was
the question at the root of
iron and steel: Those who suffered had little impact;
Those who suffered often made little
difference to anyone. Those who suffered simply
did not have enough “utmost importance.”
Doug participated in the early work of Charlie Peacock’s Art House Foundation, an organization dedicated to a shared exploration of faith and the arts. In the decades since, he has worked as an author, song lyricist, scriptwriter, and video director. He has penned more than 350 lyrics recorded by a variety of artists including Switchfoot, Kenny Rogers, Sanctus Real, and Jason Gray. His newest book is Every Moment Holy (Rabbit Room Press). His other works include The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog (illustrated by Zach Franzen), The Wishes of the Fish King (illustrated by Jamin Still), Subjects with Objects (with Jonathan Richter), and Stories We Shared: A Family Book Journal (with Jamin Still).