12.8.09

INTO THE BONES OF A POEM

I wrote recently that I would unpack a poem from my impending collection to indicate a bit about how it emerges from the chrysalis of thought into the form, meter and rhyme of a whole, complete poem.

Here's the original poem in all its uncut glory. When I wrote it I thought it was a finished thing; when I returned to it, it seemed so unfinished as to be hardly started.

FORCEPS DELIVERY-POET'S BLOCK

Contractions have ceased
for two weeks.
There has been silence.
No little kicks or movements.

But now I birth this
being back to life.
Push out this new sound.
It is a pub-delivery.

A message from the omnipotent stars?
Postcards from the Pleiades?
No-just these small words
Like tiny fists, opening and closing
in the gloaming.

Well,it's an experience just writing that out without interfering! The poem was about a fallow period in the middle of a creative frenzy of some nine months when most of 'The Book of Three Rings' was written. A period when I had given up work to concentrate on writing and other stuff-real work!

I experienced this period as some kind of pregnancy and that's what got me thinking about this metaphor. Poems were dropping like daily babies on the floor and the first word 'contractions' came in to my head.
But the rhythm in those first two lines is unhappy-making. A first line of four syllables and two stresses and a second line of three syllables with two stresses. Why not join the line up to make four clear stresses-tract/ceased/two/weeks?

Contractions have ceased for two whole weeks

It's certainly a lot clearer with a regular four beat line(tetrameter)though there's no getting away from the ugliness of 'contractions'-not a nice word! Maybe I should have put 'Contractions they have ceased for two whole weeks' but the 'they' seemed to contrive the line into pentameter in a very artificial way. It seemed to take away some truth, and all and everything,even the laws of prosody must bow their heads to truth. Non?

'There has been silence' seems a bit obvious and lacking the fear that went with the lack of creative juice-would it ever return? So it became:

An all pervading silence surrounds me.


This is much better with it's sense of that almost palpably oppressive type of silence and my comfort zone-the iambic pentameter. Ti-Tum Ti-Tum Ti-Tum Ti-Tum Ti-Tum.

No little kicks or movements with its terribly clumsy beat becomes:


No swimming in the limpid sac-no kicks


Of course I'm in danger of doing my metaphors to death here but really there's no going back so the author just dives in with a clear and colloquial declaration:

So now I'll birth this bugger back to life:
PUB DELIVERY! THE FORCEPS OF PURE WILL!


This starting to be a bit of a piss-take with the capitals signifying a shouted line. We must not take ourselves too seriously hence:

(medicated with the sacred hop)

I decide to keep the next couplet pretty much as it is but change 'stars' to 'gods'.

A message from the omnipotent gods?
A one-off postcard from the pleiades?


The poet is confronted with his own hyperbole and confesses his sins pentametrically:

No way! Just fucking words and words and words.

But like a good poetic sneak just can't resist returning to his clever metaphor and giving the ending a gloss as if the closing door has had a makeover. In poetry this showiness is generally a fault. The poet is seduced by his ever more outlandish metaphors and similes. Like a drug-addicted lover who we just can't leave. Ah, that old seducing mind!

So we have:

Like tiny fists on waving stalks.
Like dumb mouths opening/closing, in their sleep.

So the re-written poem is:

POET'S BLOCK

Contractions have ceased for two whole weeks.
An all-pervading silence surrounds me.
No swimming in the limpid sac-no kicks.
So now I'll birth this bugger back to life:
PUB DELIVERY! THE FORCEPS OF PURE WILL!
(medicated with the sacred hop.)
A message from the omnipotent gods?
A one-off postcard from the pleiades?
No way! Just fucking words and words and words.
Like tiny little fists on waving stalks;
like dumb mouths opening/closing,in their sleep.


I think it's lots better but I hate to see my hubris so nakedly displayed!

Success to your work!

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