Monday, June 23, 2008

A Poem Reworked

Read Write Poem is certainly stretching my poetry muscles in a good way. The prompt this week was to stop thinking about revising a poem and actually do it. OK, Juliet was much more gentle with the prompt, but this is what it meant to me. So I took a poem written in January 2008 for a Writers Island prompt and reworked it.

First the original:

Over the Horizon

The weather three states west would be ours
tomorrow, or the next day, depending on the wind.
Weather always made good time racing
across the space ironed flat by ancient glaciers.

From the back seat of the wood-paneled station wagon
the space between me and the horizon
was filled with rows of corn and soybeans
and a few trees here and there with something to prove.

The concrete interstate plowed a pale path
through green fields, due east ten miles to a gentle left-hand curve,
then straight as the crow flies to the middle of the next county,
never looking back.

Decades down the road,
I live past the curvature of the earth
from where I started.

Here's the new piece:

From Flatland

Giant steel grasshoppers sit contentedly in fields,
endlessly sipping ancient nectar from underground,
next to comforting night-lights of flaming natural gas,
unable to imagine life anywhere else.

The weather three states west will be ours
tomorrow, or the next day, depending on the wind.
It always makes good time racing
across the land ironed flat by ancient glaciers.

I lift my body's question mark
from the high school drinking fountain,
answering a different, distant call
to plow a fertile field elsewhere.

From inside the '68 Chevy station wagon my eyes
trace row after row after row of corn and soybeans,
filling the space between me and the horizon
save for the occasional tree with something to prove.

Straight as the crow flies, I follow
the pale, unbending concrete of the Interstate
past all those tidy, unchanging furrows
into the hazy, wavy shimmer ahead.


Lirone said...

Interesting work... for me the revision had some much tighter writing - hazy wavy shimmer, just one tree with something to prove, and the grasshoppers are great!

However, altogether the first poem fitted together more coherently for me. I like the drinking fountain verse, but it took me into a different space and sort of disrupted the road trip of the rest of the poem.

Oh, and I preferred the wood-panelled station wagon to the 68 chevy - perhaps that's because as a non-American I don't know what a 68 chevy looks like, but wood-panelled makes sense to me!

This has been an really interesting exercise - so fascinating to see what people change

sister AE said...

Hi, Lirone. Thanks for your comments. I don't think this poem is in its final shape yet. I had one poem which I mostly liked but it wasn't conveying all that I wanted it to. Then I came up with some new stuff I thought would mesh. And I struggled with the "body's question mark" part, trying to find the right place for it. It could be that it wants a whole other poem of its own, but I'll let this stew for a while before revising again.

Nathan said...

I think both versions have their strengths. The second, with the "body's question mark" stanza, has a more definite focus. The travel is defined. I'm glad you kept the first stanza from the first version -- it has wonderful music.

sister AE said...

Thanks, Nathan.

Maria said...

"plowed a pale path"

I love that bit...

Linda Jacobs said...

I like how you changed "would" to "will" in the first sentence! And I really like that school scene. Maybe because I'm a teacher and could relate. But I also agree that it has a different tone than the rest.

You have some beautiful lines in here!

sister AE said...

Thanks, Maria.

Hi, Linda, and thanks.

Rob Kistner said...

"The weather three states west will be ours tomorrow, or the next day, depending on the wind.
It always makes good time racing
across the land ironed flat by ancient glaciers."

This stanza is exceptional. It paints a vivid and powerful picture in the mind. Just super!

I like the revision. It is, for me, better focused -- and I am taken by the imagery of the closing stanza. Fine improvement.

sister AE said...

Thanks, Rob. It is getting there.

Crafty Green Poet said...

There's something about the voice of the first verion that I loved but felt was lost somehow in the second. I know what you mean in your initial comments too, sometimes we do need a push to actually get round to revising, but it is an important process! Sorry for taking so long to visit peopl's responses to this prompt!

sister AE said...

Hi, Juliet. No need to apologize! you are welcome whenever.

This piece is definitely not finished, the before nor the after. After a while I'll pull it out again and ask what I'd like to convey and it may turn out to be two different things, in which case one single stand-alone poem may not be the answer. I'll have to let you know when I get to a new plateau with it.