01 June 2005

Revising Poems

I didn't work with the SPEWS Word Count poem yet, but I did revise an older work based on an encounter with a cougar while hiking a few months back. I'll show you the original, heat-of-the-moment version first and the refined, condensed version second.

Offguard (original)

Warm winter day reprieves us from chill
Leaves us hiking down a forested hill
Thematic wanderings set in Wonderland trails
Purple bells and the call of a lark
Tease us with the slow approach of Spring
A few hours left before it’s dark
And the night returns with its sting
Plenty of time to imagine the wind pushes my sails

A shuffle and low growl
Hillside trees shake and settle
Spots of yellow tan hide freeze

Two children in tow
One predator ready to roe
Let the caveman inside me grow
As I holler and find something to throw

Break a stick and shout
Too weak
Break a limb and route
My children quick pace
Past hungry death from above

Walk quick
No don’t run
Too slow
No don’t run
Just a little more
Don’t stop until you hit pavement


Warn the rest with my broken branch
Gouge into the dirt the words
“Cougar Sighted Ahead”

—Kyle Stich, 18 February 2005

Off Guard (revised)

Two sons and their pop hike hills hinting at spring
Premature distractions of warm reprieve

A shuffle of duff and a low growl
Hillside tress tremble then freeze

Hungry death from above threatens the three
Trapping them between trail’s end and roadside safety

A caveman grows inside of Dad as he
Breaks sticks, shouts, and beats

Kids route quick pace past hidden beast
And once safe, Pa gouges into dirt words to heed:
“Cougar Sighted Ahead”

—Kyle Stich, 1 June 2005

Which version do you prefer? I think the revised one, although refined and tighter, lacks the urgency of the first. It doesn't quite contain the energy of the situation. So, why did I revise it? Well, when you show it off in class and plan to include it in your chap book, you have to work with it somehow. In the case of this poem, I found the words that reflected the situation most effectively and condensed them into four couplets and one triplet. I maintained the end near rhyme throughout to reflect the sound of being frightened: eek!

This brings me to an interesting observation. Most modern poet readers reject poems built with rhyme. It seems childish to them, too fairytale-like or Seuss-ish. Before engaging in any kind of poetry writing (which didn't happen until I was near thirty years old), I feared poetry because I sucked at rhyming. Now, I realize that fear was unfounded and my walls have busted open.


Anonymous said...

Ok, I really think there are a lot of great images in both of these pieces. But I am having a hard time figuring out what I want to say with just typing it. So, if you really want the feedback, I can write it out and get it to you. I think it would be easier for me if I were writing on paper...


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about these two versions quite a bit. And the following is my conclusion. After reading both closely I prefer the initial version. Not only does it have the urgency of the situation you peak of, but he ideas in many ways are more fully explored. I also like your ryhme in the first one, they do not feel sing-songy by any means. The second version with more of the father-son relationship which I think becomes the topic here more than anything. So I guess it depends on what you feel you are really trying to say.

Just a curiosity--do you usually write poetry without punctuation? I've always had a long internal debate with myself about punctuation vs. no punctuation and which works best. I think for this poem though I enjoy the lack--more posibilities in the reading.

Does any of this help?


Kyle Stich said...

Thanks for your insight into my poems, Shannon. This is what I'll miss most about classes, reader response. Your comments are very helpful. As for poetry without punctuation, see my post titled "Who Needs Commas?"