Today we have a new craft resource for you, in the form of this collection of images of poets’ first drafts of their poems, complete with their crossings-out/notes. I find these particularly interesting in how they show a poet’s own evaluation of their initial thoughts – what works, what doesn’t work, what is too discursive, what is too confusing, and how certain lines/ideas can move from where they originally sat to new places to heighten the overall rhetorical effect of the poem.
Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.
I chose a poem by Williams Wordsworth, “Lines Written in Early Spring”. I hadn’t read it earlier but could only trust Williams Wordsworth to get me through this challenge. The lines in red are written by me while the lines in blue are the original poem written in reverse order from last line to first. Followed all the rules mentioned above.
What man has made of man. I ask myself night and day
Have I not reason to lament this slow decay?
If such be Nature’s holy plan, then how can I protest
If this belief from heaven be sent, that man must be laid to rest…
That there was pleasure there, memories of our past
And I must think, do all I can, so that I can make it last
To catch the breezy air; and lay on meadows, green
The budding twigs spread out their fan, the blooming flowers, their petals seen
It seemed a thrill of pleasure. The dream that I could restore –
But the least motion which they made, brought the present to the fore
Their thoughts I cannot measure, these simple pleasures not within man’s reach
The birds around me hopped and played: a lesson in joy, they seemed to teach…
Enjoys the air it breathes. That man forgot in endless greed
And ‘tis my faith that every flower bloomed with colorful cheer for us to heed
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; pink, purple and blue guiding
Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower, dainty flowers supporting…
What man has made of man. I ask myself, night and day
And much it grieved my heart to think of hope I could see no ray
The human soul that through me ran; knew deep within the mistakes made
To her fair works did nature link. To save the Man who hath betrayed.
Bring sad thoughts to the mind. I can no longer push behind
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts are unkind
While in a grove I sate reclined, my heart no longer solace finds
I heard a thousand blended notes, that of our bleak future reminds.
Note:For the original poem, you can click on the link Lines written in Early Spring
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