May 5-May 7, 2012:

Trying to keep up a bit better, I am going to talk about the past three days which have been filled with writing and revising three possible books of poetry as well as adding a couple of chapters to Centaur Field.  I also went Balkan dancing with my friend Karl, attended a Computer Science Department awards dinner and talked with old friends and colleagues of David’s there (getting a bit nostalgic and weepy in the process), and visited the Eric Carle Museum to hear an interview with Wendell Minor, one of the premier illustrators of today and a friend.

The process of revising poetry is one that interests me because it is different from the process of revising  novels. Novels have that big sweep, characterization, landscapes both inner and outer. And while I always try to write them with as much poetry as I can, often the plot demands short, sharp verbs and fast movement instead of languid and/or lyrical lines.

But poetry. . .I may rewrite a single poem anywhere from a three to three dozen times, reading them aloud, changing not only a line or two, a word or three, but sometimes an entire rhyme scheme along the way.

Here’s a poem from ARCH: A Span of Foot Poems and its consequent revisions. Just to see what I mean.

First draft: the poem was placed in the middle of the book as I worked.  In this first draft it seems a bit like a sketch for a poem, though I like where it leads:

Instep

Instep,

Step out,

Step over

Step off

Set off

Then finally

Sit right down

And rest your feet awhile.

 

 

Second draft: Still in the middle of the book, I still like the direction in which it’s going, though I have added a bit to the mid-section.

Instep

Instep,

Step in

Step out,

Set out

Step over

Step off

Set off,

Then finally

Sit right down

And rest your feet awhile.

 

Third Draft: I have repositioned it as the final poem. This placing has been dictated by the final three lines. I want the readers to rest a while and think about what they’ve just read. The title has changed a bit, too. As have the first lines. And the last lines have been slightly restructured.

 

Instep, In Step

Instep,

In step.

Step in,

Step out.

Set out,

Step over.

Step off

Set off.

Then finally

Sit right down

And rest

your feet

awhile.

 

Fourth draft: A tiny change within the body of the piece, making it structurally more balanced, and some errant upper case letters made lower case at the end part. Will it remain this way in future revisions of the book proposal as a whole? Only time (and an editor, if I manage to sell the book) will tell.

 

Instep, In Step

Instep.

In step.

Step in.

Step out.

Set in.

Set out.

Step over.

Step off.

Step around.

Set off.

Then finally

sit right down

and rest

your feet

awhile.

 

 

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