3rd or maybe 4th draft is finished and as you can see, I have a title for my new poem. Not ready to be published here quite yet but I thought I would share the creative process that has gone into this poem.
My most recent work, My Song for You (working title), came from an exercise at my writing group that I didn’t find very easy. We were asked to write a letter to a friend we hadn’t seen for a long time.
I don’t know about you, but I just don’t write letters anymore! I write emails and I write texts but they are, by nature, brief and functional. When are we going to dinner? What time are you home? – that kind of thing….people I haven’t seen for a while, I have been facebooking, and usually as a response to their post so it has a context….
I always hated writing letters when I was a child, although I did try but they always sounded so…..trite. And I remain in awe of people who write beautiful letters.
But I like poetry so I turned my letter into a poem…
The first draft was a 15 minute exercise and since then, I have been wrestling with the imagery.
The back story for the poem proved to be the most important issue initially – why were these two people divided, what divided them, why can’t they get back together? The questions that I asked myself took almost as long as writing the poem. They were important though and provided a framework for the words.
And then the imagery. When I produced my 2nd draft and offered it for reading, the poem was interpreted as a relationship of violence, of abuse and that so wasn’t what I wanted to convey.
Shame has spun me round, chained my wrists
Blinkered my eyes, slammed me against the wall….
This workshopping effect is really important as I didn’t want that interpretation – it was supposed to be altogether much more loving than that.
So back to the drafting.
A poem that focused on the lives of two people that have been separated by time, I realised that there was too much of just one person in it and it was important that both lives were evident.
Most importantly though, I also had my favourite lines in it that I didn’t want to lose…..and yet they are now gone. Why? Dr Johnson advised writers to ‘read over [your] composition and wherever you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.’ (Sansom, p50) If you read poems aloud (and I think, that this is really important), those ‘fine’ passages stick in your throat…and if they do that, get them gone!
Yes, doing so left a big hole but in its place is room for the subtle effect, which leaves the reader back in charge of the interpretation.
Time to get back to it, for a final or maybe 5th revision!
Dr Johnson’s quote comes from Peter Sansom’s book, Writing Poems published by Bloodaxe Books (1997)