The Story Behind “Preoccupation” by Caitlin Thomson

CThomsonHeadshotPlease welcome today’s guest, Caitlin Thomson. We published two of her poems in our Fall 2013 issue.

The Story Behind “Preoccupation”

by Caitlin Thomson

I wrote this poem after having a Skype conversation with my writing group. That sounds very distant and technological, but in fact this conversation was transformative.

My writing group had been together for three years at that point. For most of the first year all of us had lived in New York, but over time most of us had left the city, so we could no longer physically meet in the Grand Central Station Starbucks, as we used to.

The conversation involved two pregnancies, but to say that is to oversimplify. We were laughing and crying at the same time. My husband in the next room was profoundly confused by the snippets he was overhearing.

I do not generally write personal poems. The other poem Compose published this issue, “San Andreas,” is entirely fictional. Even this poem, “Preoccupation,” is a poem of half truths.

The first draft I wrote contained the truth. It told the story in a way that made linear sense. I read it a couple of times, then threw it out.

I rewrote it from scratch, many of the details the poem now contained did not come from ongoing events, but from the past, or my imagination. The language became more abstract.

The second time I wrote the poem, I did not tell the story of what happened. Just by reading the poem you learn nothing about what happened in our group, but the feelings, the emotions that were conveyed came across clearer, more poignant.

The feeling of the event, the feeling I had for days after it, are contained in here. It is honest in the way the first draft never could have been.

About the Author

Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson is a Canadian who married an American. She resides in rural Washington state. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous places, including The Literary Review of Canada, The LinerEDGE, Echolocation, and the anthology Killer Verse. Her second chapbook Incident Reports is forthcoming in 2014 from Hyacinth Girl Press.

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