Portrait of the Artist as a Man
September 13, 2015

Between Versions

I thought it would be kind of neat to see how a poem in process can look. Below is a first draft then the current draft of something I’m working on, one of something_s_ I’m working on if you count everything tagged with wip.

Most of the time, i write an entire poem in a sinle setting. Most of waht I produce is short and has a few key ideas I’m trying to hit. I’ll tweak that draft until I like the phrasing and clarity and what have you and call it a 1st draft.

Here is an example 1st draft:

Awake. This isn’t my
House. This isn’t
My life. Where is
My car, the dappled white
Fluff that grounds me, that
Covers the sheets
Like dusty clouds
Rolling over the hillside.

This isn’t my house
This isn’t my
Wife sleeping beside me
Where is her soft
Voiced snoring just at the
Back of the throat that whistles
Like wind between

Awake and wondering
Through the lonesome mind
Aware enough to know this
Isn’t my house. I do not live here
There must be
Some mistake that you were taken from
Me last night under cold sheets.
This was our house and the
Hills and trees are bare
Long before winter even arrives.

I’ll let this sit for a few days to a few weeks. This, in particular, I wrote first on 8/22. When I’m good on my morning routine (or occasionally over lunch), I’ll open up my WIP tagged pieces and rework something that is familiar but unfamiliar.

That is, I remember writing the poem or the mood or some of the language but not the specifics. I’ll re-read it keep what I remembered in mind. I duplicate the poem and start re-writing it.

Ideally, there is a core image or tone or mood that I try to emphasize. I’ll pick out some phrasing or a metaphor and try to repeat or extend that through the rest of the poem. The stuff I like the most tends to have one core idea and one major metaphor that is peppered in the stanzas and builds to some sort of crescendo.

Awake and cold,
A creeping morning apprehension.
This isn’t my
house. This isn’t
my cat? Where is
the dappled white fur
that covered the sheets
like wild flowers on a hillside.

This isn’t my
house. This isn’t my
wife? Where is her soft
voiced sibilance that settled
at the back of the throat
like wind through open petals.

Awake and cold
And creeping through my
lonesome mind. Aware. Enough.
This isn’t my life. I loved here
when the sheets were speckled and
warm and rising with rhythm.
The flowers are long dead
before my winter arrives.

Here, I’ve tightened up the language and made the wild flower references a bit firmer. I’ve extended the questioning mood, both literally in the mirrored inteorragative statemnts and with the overall poetic feel, and tried to ally it with the core metaphor.

I’ve now repeated some of the language - like the question over house and creeping”. I”ve definitely added more reference to the flower imagery. I’ve added more alliteration and especially more consonance. I’m a sucker for good consonance but tend to overuse it and I’m questioning it here, especially in the last stanza.

Though I think it is better, it’s really not done nor particular good (to me). I will tag this as edited” then leave myself some notes, like what I said above, for when I return to it. Generally, I try to have many fewer days between 2nd and third drafts but that depends on what I write over the next few days.


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