Drafts, Drawings & Poems

By Brett Rawson

In memoir writing, you have to operate on yourself, and depending on the length of time between being patient and surgeon, that can be painful. I think it’s why I keep a notebook so close, but also why I need a community of other writers at the core: to have those private and public spaces to experiment with ideas, but ultimately, expose them.

Last winter, I was struggling with a prose-poetry project. The voice was off-balance, but in attending a workshop at the Garrison Institute, “Imagining Your Voice on the Page,” led by Robert Polito and Gregory Pardlo, I found calibration. They illuminated aspects of voice I hadn’t considered, such as the role of sincerity, form as a register of voice, and the difference between what is reality and what is convincing. Looking back at my journals from that time, I see continuity: each lecture, I took notes in the shape of drawings, and even though I wrote until two each morning and awoke at seven to sit with the others, that weekend of locomotion, snow, and quiet performance reminded me of what a mentor once said: writing is a physical activity.

Drawings made by Brett Rawson at “Imagining Your Voice on the Page,” a Garrison Institute retreat led by Robert Polito and Gregory Pardlo.


Brett Rawson edits and curates at the intersection of technology and culture. He is founder of Handwritten and Director of Outreach at The Seventh Wave. He received an MFA from The New School and has been published in The Rumpus, Narratively, Nowhere Magazine, PANK, and more.

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