Season of Revisions

Now we come to the Season of Revisions. I am not only speaking of poetry here; I am speaking poetically. I have habits of mind and habits of space and movement to revise and to refine. I have thoughts and ideas, plans and intentions to revise and to renovate. Perhaps my poetic revisions can be like a wave that will help me in other areas to continue to move always in the direction I want to move, to break the stasis, to step out of the rut, to live–as US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera says, “in a flourishing way.”

Earlier in the month of April, I tossed out this poem one evening:

Message from the Empress

In the orchard over the ridge
the trees have broken into a riot of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet grass beneath.

Let us riot too.

Let us spread
our blooming fingers to the sky,
opening our mouths and our hearts,
meeting destruction with bloom,
with green, with simple beauty,
with overpowering fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.

Last week I subjected it to a several-step revision process that I asked my Creative Writing students to engage in:

Step One:
Change up the line lengths. Consider tossing in some tabs to change the shape of the poem on the page. Or center. Or right-justify.

Step Two:
Find six interesting words in your poem. Using an online thesaurus, your own head, or the help of a friend, write three+ synonyms for each word, and substitute them for the words in your poem.

Step Three:
Go back to Step Two. Retype those six words, or choose six more. Find three+ rhymes for each of those words, using an online rhyming dictionary, or the help of a friend or your own head. Can you tuck any of these words into your poem? Also, listen for words with similar sounds–vowels and consonants–even if they don’t rhyme. Can you add or substitute any of those words in your poem?

Step Four:
Rewrite your poem, using rhythm and rhyme. This one may feel like the most complicated one, but see if you can feel a sense of the rhythm of your words. (I have revised my revision process: originally I had steps three and four in opposite order. They make much more sense when you transpose them.)

Step Five:
Read through all your versions. Is there one that stands out as the strongest to you? Are there parts of different ones that you like? Mix and match. Choose your favorite version so far and type that one in.

I ended up with this:

Message from the Empress

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
     Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
     Let us be wanton.

***
I’m still not sure that this is my best version, but I feel a real satisfaction. I hope my students can feel a little measure of that satisfaction with their own poems.

Gratitude List:
1. Wise and open-hearted colleagues
2. Sharing food
3. Revising, renewing, renovating, reactivating
4. Yellow feathers, yellow flowers
5. Breath. Inspiration. Breath.

May we walk in Beauty!

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