My Poetry Process: Part 3

Last week I made some changes to the original poem began two weeks ago after doing some research. I then took the blocks of text and added line breaks. After that process this is what I had:

The moon before,
on summer nights
when the day’s water was on our skin,
sweat, blue, like it wasn’t real –
the angles and proportions didn’t fit
the universe – it wasn’t real,
it was just a ghost light
shining through your Super 8 sundress,
and you were just a shadow
in a memory that has only become gilded
with time, a fine sand slipping over our history
like ice. You can take Greenland.

And the moon again,
big in the late winter sky,
round like the canisters we came from,
white like the snow, like the frost
creeping along eyelashes, like a surrender,
but we were on the ground,
a square and circle,
watching icebergs calve,
like our bond, wet and cold
and our feet weren’t synchronized, you
moved at the speed of angels, and I,
I’m still trudging. Antarctica is mine.

It was starting to look more like a poem, but was still pretty rough. I set out to transform this draft into a syllabic piece, with an equal number of lines in each stanza and an equal number of syllables in each line. After some adjustments and fiddling around this past week, mostly done while recovering from being sick, I now have this:

The moon before,
on summer nights
when the day’s blue
sweat soaked our skin,
water, like it wasn’t
real –
the angles off,
and proportions
didn’t fit
inside
the universe –
it wasn’t real,
it was a ghost
light
shining through
your Super 8
sundress,
and you,
you were shadow

a memory gilt
with time, a fine
history, slick,
white sand and ice.
You want Greenland,
you can have it.

Again, the moon,
late in the washed
winter sky,
so big,
so round, like
tin canisters
we came from,
white
like the snow, like
the frost
creeping
down eyelashes,
like surrender –

us, on the ground,
a square and circle,
watching icebergs
calve,
like our bond,
wet and cold
, feet
desynchronized,
you
moved in tune
with angels – I,

I still trudge, I
dig holes into
Antarctica.

Getting closer. Let’s see how I got here:

I played with longer lines during the week, but they didn’t lend themselves to the choppy, cut-up nature of film work. I want this piece and its lines to flow, but I want the poem itself to feel broken and leave the reader feeling likewise. So, I settled on the shorter lines, more reminiscent of a filmstrip. In doing so, I was forced to rearrange not just words, but phrases and ideas. I shifted some lines, I shifted some words, I swapped some words for others or removed them completely. I cut some redundant phrases present in the original and replaced them with deliberate repetition to create an stutter-like effect, or a lexical representation of a camera’s shutter opening and closing so quickly over the aperture.

Ultimately, this was a successful revision. So, what’s left?

There are some inconsistencies in tone. While I want the stanzas to feel different from each other, I still need them to be connected. I need to explore ways of linking the two beyond the moon image and the film terms. Right now the link is crude – it needs smoothed out, to be made more subtle. See how this To-Do list is more vague than the last one? That’s not me being sick and lazy, that’s me being uncertain about exactly how I’m going to approach these final changes that are not simply mechanical, but emotional.

Check back next week, when I should wrap this one up.

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