My Poetry Process: Part 4

We’ve come a long way in four weeks. When we started, all I had was a general idea about a poem inspired by “The Stars are Projectors” by Modest Mouse. This was followed by research and an initial revision. Most recently, I transformed the poem into a short-lined, syllabic piece, but was left with inconsistencies I was unhappy with.

So, let’s look at what we were left with last week:

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.

I was unsure about exactly how I would proceed, but knew that the piece needed to be tightened up mechanically and emotionally. First, I recognized that the second stanza included a solitary “you” – I could have found a way to remove it, but decided to replicate this singular instance by inserting a new line with an “I” in the first stanza. Doing this, though, through off my equal line counts, so I went through the piece and found the lines I felt could be touched up or expanded on as far as their effect on the overall meaning and metaphors were concerned. As I did this, I replaced or added to a number of words with more loosely related language . I wanted to capture “flicker” in addition to “shadow”, have a “belief” that changed throughout the poem, a more defined idea about spatial “geometry”, this idea that we “feed” or are slowly pulled out of ourselves/home/comfort instead of born out, and a handful of other references to movie projection, such as “canvas” and “after-image”. Along with some minor punctuation changes made necessary by the adjustments, I was left with the following:

“years we project”
by Nolan Liebert (October, 2015)

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

a memory gilt
with stars, 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 feed from,
white
like the snow, like
the frost
creeping
down eyelashes,
like surrender –

us, on the ground,
a square and circle,
flesh geometry

watching icebergs
calve,
like our bond,
wet and cold
, feet
desynchronized,
you
moved in tune
with angels – I,

I’m just a scar,
after-image
burned across the
cold canvas of
Antarctica.

For now, I’m content to call this piece “finished”, though like most poems, this remains a living, breathing work of language. I very well may make some minor or even significant changes in the future, but for now, I’ll give myself some distance from these particular words until I’m ready to put together my complete set of music-inspired poems.

Thank you for following along with this process. Look for more in the future as I continue this project.

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