Wednesday, January 13, 2010

collection completion compulsion

The title of this essay is taken from the first line of a poem I wrote several years ago. The whole line was: "Collection completion compulsion keeps calenders coming." At the time, I was writing a poem on a theme relating to each new year ahead, printing it along with a calendar, and mailing it out as a holiday greeting to friends and clients. When I closed the business, I stopped producing the calendars, but the New Year poems have become a tradition.

After having received a number of my New Year poems, Kaye told me she always puts them up on the fridge where she can peruse them regularly. Sometime in March, she would feel that she understood that year's poem at last. What could be better than the joy of having one's words pondered?

Now, I've been trying for years to write a poem about collecting and collections, but it's not coming together for me very well. Many of my poems have had gestation periods lasting several years, so the lapse of time for this one is not alarming in and of itself.

When I was writing a poem about how Grandma White killed her chickens, I developed a casual interview technique where I would just use the words grandmother, kill, and chickens in the same sentence. Everyone I spoke to seemed eager to talk about how his or her grandmother killed chickens, and many people would make a neck-wringing motion while they talked. Clearly chicken-killing is a deeply significant part of many cultures, but that's a story for another day.

Pinky once asked me why I'd never mentioned her in ANY of my poems. Her sister Sharon had been featured in many, you see, and sibling rivalry is a force to be reckoned with even among folks in their sixties. To placate Pinky AND make progress on my poem, I later asked her about her collections. She rather bluntly told me she didn't collect ANYTHING, though our conversation eventually revealed that she liked to buy a gold charm in every country she visited. Of necessity, this was a small and exclusive and exquisite collection. BTW she said she didn't remember ever asking why she wasn't mentioned in any of my poems.

What have I learned?
  • Collections have something important to do with memory. I remember when Jerri gave me a parrot she'd brought back from Mexico and how I hung it in the rafters of my garage-office.
  • Collections are an excuse to shop. I'm always on the lookout for mermaids for Ruth, frogs for Sharon, nativity sets for Raquel, and owls for Kay (even tho Kay passed away over two years ago).
  • Collecting things, we collect friends (very possibly the first line of my new poem).
I think I'll try going back to a more casual interview technique. Just say the words collectioncompulsion, and Chia Pet (or cookie cutter or parrot)  in the same sentence and see what's evoked.

Steve came home from a rehearsal last night and told me that Dave missed my New Year poems. A long time ago when we were stand-mates in the flute section of a community concert band, Dave told me he always taped my calendar poem to his drawing board. You can be sure that Dave will get this year's New Year poem, complete with a drawing by Steve.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License