I considered all five senses when I was writing and revising my poetry, not just sight. For example, for Making Lemonade: Grandma’s Recipe (Assignment Five), I tasted lemons and sugar to help write vivid descriptions. Also, for The Funeral(Assignment Two), I remembered how I felt on the day of my father’s funeral and described that feeling using descriptions of the location and activities: frozen in grief and the howling of the trumpet. Orr explains: ‘… memories that excited or saddened or disturbed you. That’s what I mean by disorder… These personal experiences of disorder are what lyric poetry is superbly designed to engage and make sense of’ (2018:42).
When redrafting, I read the poems aloud. This helped me check rhythm, sense, and repeated words and ideas. In At the End of the Day (Assignment Three), I added ‘to’ in the penultimate line: ‘to the kitchen she waddles’. When I read that line, it tripped up my mouth, and this added to the visual of her waddle and her need to lean on the wall. In War on Terror (Assignment Three), I used the word ‘dust’ too much. I changed it to ‘dirt’ and ‘mud’. Sansom says, ‘As you get better at reading, at listening to poems, our ear becomes attuned to more subtle effects in which rhythm and meaning can marry more exactly, the rhythm working with the poem’ (1994:80).
When reading aloud, I would also listen to the sound of the words I used and decide if the sound helped create the tone and atmosphere in the poem. For example, inYou’re Too Much! (Assignment Two), instead of using words like ‘hush’, ‘sobbed’, and ‘applied’, I chose ‘shut up’, ‘shrieked’, and ‘slashed’ to help make the characters sound angry. Padel tells us that ‘The sound becomes the meaning while it expresses it. A good poem is a love affair of sound and sense’ (2004:13).
I experimented with alliteration and assonance because I found they brought a pleasing rhythm or sound to my poems. As I redrafted The Eve Before Wintertime (Assignment Five), I added ‘mists meander’ and ‘gossamer ghosts’. Rilke’s Autumn Day(PoemHunter.com, 2003) inspired me. I enjoyed the sounds in Rilke’s poem. In the first line, ‘summer’ and ‘immense’ have a similar sound (the visual of the ‘mm’ is also pleasing), and in the fourth line, ‘fruits’ and ‘full’ have a similar sound at the beginning of the word. Oliver calls alliteration ‘…a sonorous and lively device’ and cautions us to consider where ‘…the line [is] between enough and too much’ (1994:29).
As I redrafted my poems, I used lineation to control the pace of a poem, the rhythm, and the sense. In Nunhead Cemetery(Assignment Three), some of the lines were initially too long and like prose. I tried to convey a messy cemetery but instead it was confusing, so I reduced the line lengths. The mess of the cemetery is also described in the poem, e.g., ‘Grave stones prattle and tattle around the grass/no one wants to pick them up/and put them back to where they were’. Also, in Rusty Submarine (Assignment Three), in order to sound less like prose, I cut the long lines. For example, I changed ‘in the galley, where cook twitches with his face down on the stove/grandad vomits,’ to ‘pukes, in the galley:/the chef is twitching,/his face down on the stove.’ I broke some of the lines in the middle of the meaning in The Beast without Beauty (Assignment Five) because it brought movement to the poem by pulling the reader along quickly. Plath’s The Burnt-Out Spadoes something similar:
‘A monster of wood and rusty teeth.
Fire smelted his eyes to lumps
Of pale blue vitreous stuff, opaque
As resin drops oozed from pine bark’ (Hughes, 1985:26).
Herbert says, ‘Where we choose to break a phrase in order to begin a new line has consequences for the entire poem’ (2006:181).
I chose to draft all my poems with single-line spacing and used a single line between each stanza, because I had no specific reason to use double-line spacing. In The 18:11 from Cannon Street (Assignment Two), I controlled the information by putting each person as a stanza and then the last line about going home on its own. In Milly the Cat (Assignment Three), I moved the first stanza to the last which helped with the viewpoint of the poem, leading the reader from the garden back into the house. I removed the last stanza in The Beast without Beautybecause it was repeating ideas already built into the poem: that the beast was gross, e.g., ‘rats crunch on bugs falling from his coat.’ I added a one-line stanza to the end of Whitechapel Music Hall (or Penny Gaff) (Assignment Five) to add action and drama. This was changed from the previous three lines which were ‘but she walks along/discussing her life/with a stranger.’ Oliver says, ‘It may be useful, when considering the stanza, to recall the paragraph in prose… the poet might think of the sensible paragraph as a kind of norm… from which to feel out the particular divisions that are best for a particular poem. Such divisions might be natural pauses in the action…’ (1994:61).
When revising poems, I chose language that was specific for the atmosphere and story of the poem. For example, I checked for abstract nouns and accurate verbs. I found that when I used specific nouns and the most appropriate verbs for the poem, I did not need to use adverbs or adjectives, because I had found the word that was working the hardest. In Last Night He Stood on Platform One… (Assignment Two), I changed ‘The sodium lamp throws a weak light’ to ‘He sat beneath the station lamp/that draped its yellow light’. This improved the image in the scene because it showed the colour of the light and how it enveloped the man rather than it being described as ‘weak’.I experimented with metaphor and simile, and found I could show an image instead of tell the reader something. For example, in The Eve Before Wintertime(Assignment Five), I described leaves as flames: ‘Trees fling their flames to the earth.’ I enjoyed the similes and metaphor that Clark uses in My Life with Horses. She describes herself like a horse and tells us that she ‘lay like a foal in the grass’ and that she ‘carefully cut my mane’ (Astley, 2002:226). I checked the poems for clichés and in Mists at Twilight (Assignment Two), I changed the last line from ‘gone but not forgotten,’ to ‘today is forgotten, you’ve now disappeared.’
In The Funeral(Assignment Two), I was careful to use words that showed rather than told about support at a time of grieving. In the line ‘oak boughs reach in silence’, the word ‘silence’ showed grief, dignity, and respect, and the ‘oak boughs’ were a metaphor for the strong arms that reached out to hold the grieving. With Strolling through Haworth (Assignment Five), I removed some adjectives such as changing ‘Its white-framed windows blink diamond frost’ to ‘Its white-framed windows blink frost’. Because Rusty Submarine (Assignment Three) was about a child telling a story, I wanted the poem’s tone to sound chatty and childlike. I changed words to sound more childlike, for example, from ‘vomits’ to ‘pukes’. Hesse’s Out of the Dust inspired me, which is a poem about a child during the depression in America. From the beginning, she mentions ‘Ma’ and ‘Daddy’ which are childlike words (2007:9) and later on she says ‘I got burned bad’ instead of ‘I was badly burned’ (2007:66). I changed ‘yellow flames lick the brazier’ to ‘braziers churning yellow flames’ in Whitechapel Music Hall (or Penny Gaff)(Assignment Five), because the first option was clichéd and I could see the image of the flames moving in the brazier better with the second option. Morley explains: ‘…words are sticky with meaning, history and association, and these elements are brought to life through their choice and combination…’ (2007:200-201).
When revising the poems, I also checked to see if punctuation was needed to help with the sense of the poem and that it was consistent. In God in Everybody (Assignment Three), I added punctuation to help the reader understand the poem. In Milly the Cat (Assignment Three), I made the punctuation consistent. Some of Blake’s poems showed me how to punctuate a poem, especially The Shepherd(Smith, 2007:79) and William Bond(Smith, 2007:42-43). Haslam explains that ‘Punctuation is there to help your reader understand your words’ (2006:375).
During redrafting, I also checked for tense and viewpoint. In Abandoned (Assignment Five), I changed lines and words to improve the viewpoint and help the reader understand where they are. To begin with, the woman was lying under a tree in the garden; I changed this to her standing in the doorway of the house so that she could see the graveyard. Peacock says, ‘If your poem contains description, then, check your angle on the subject… You may choose to move in or away, but don’t dodge about, or you will lose the reader (2013:56).
I have learned to use titles as part of the poems; using them to help explain the poem. With God in Everybody (Assignment Three), I changed the title to help explain the poem’s story, and the synchronicity between the guru’s and the dog’s death. In A Gin and Tonic on Whitstable Harbour (Assignment Two), I added ‘Whitstable’ to the title in order to show the reader the location of the harbour. Whitstable is a well-known seaside town in England; therefore, this title would give many readers a visual aid. Herbert says, ‘There are two main categories of title: the descriptive and the evocative’ (2006:175).
My tutor suggested I add more narrative to The Beast without Beauty(Assignment Five). I played with the poem and made changes, e.g., having Beauty come up the stairs with the darkness and bringing light into the house. However, I did not like the poem with Beauty in it. The poem is not supposed to be light or happy. It is a sad poem about a sad creature, and I think the poem encapsulates that as it is. Sylvia Plath likens a poem to a Victorian paperweights. She says, ‘…a door opens, a door shuts. In between you have a glimpse: a garden, a person, a rainstorm, a dragonfly, a heart, a city. I think of those round glass Victorian paperweights… a clear globe, self-complete, very pure, with a forest or village or family group within it… So a poem takes place’ (Herbert and Hollis, 2000:146). I liken this poem to that: a glimpse of the beast in his gross form.
In my assessment for Writing 1: Writing Skills, I noted that the assessor had commented that I should put all titles in italics. Therefore, I followed this advice and put all the titles of poems in italics in the Reflective Commentary that I drafted for Assignment Five. However, when my tutor copied my Reflective Commentary to her report, she did not copy the italics. Then she suggested in her report that ‘It might be useful to put the titles of poems in italics.’ I have explained this in this revised version so that the current assessor knows that I followed the previous assessor’s advice.
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Haslam, S. (2006) ‘Editing: Later stages’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.372-382.
Herbert, W. N. (2006) ‘Drafting’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.167-180.
Herbert, W. N. (2006) ‘Line’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.181-191.
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PoemHunter.com. (2003) Autumn Day – Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. At: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/autumn-day/ (Accessed on 1 November 2018)
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Smith, P. (ed.) (2007) William Blake Poems.London: Vintage.