Monday, September 30, 2013

Poetry Writing Tip: A Lesson from Emily Dickinson



I took this photo when I visited Emily's house in April, 2010.
I wrote the poem below today thanks to the image prompt from Magpie Tales. I like it well enough, given it was written so quickly and all, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with my word choices. Rather than hesitate due to concern about the poem being perfect, I posted it anyway.
I was reminded of something Emily Dickinson taught me.

For those who don’t know, I make treks to poets’ homes. To me, visiting the homes of fellow word-lovers is like visiting the great cathedrals or other holy spaces. I have literally felt the presence of the word-artists when in their space. 

On my second visit to Emily’s home I learned this: the poems we read of hers oftentimes have several different versions. If you look at her handwritten versions, she had a habit of writing a + sign by a word she wasn’t sure was “the best word” and then would list in the margins other words she might use instead. 

It takes away lots of the judgment and hesitation, interesting – sort of like ths  poem I wrote today
 --
The image is from Mark Haley. The image prompting came from Magpie Tales from poet Tess Kincaid.
Promise breathes within the bleak sky
burnished grasses
the rarely walked upon path -
barren trees sing, even when naked of leaves -
clouds pause -
hesitate before leaving -
wait before dropping
their punctuation upon -
this sacred scene

I have two words I am still not completely satisfied with:

1.      this sacred + space  (Other possibilities) dreary, desolate, serene, unruffled

2.      barren trees sing, even when naked+ of leaves – (other possibilities) exposed by lack, unprotected, thirsty for

I will continue to play with these words, perhaps trying a variety of compositions. You may try this out when you write a poem and are not quite ready to publish it, shuffle the word combinations to see which you like best. You also may try it out by not changing a thing and letting go of those other words.

Recognize alongside me: I am completely content with what I have published on my poetry blog yet I also know there may be another version waiting to be birthed, to teach me something I have yet to know.

October begins tomorrow.

OctPoWriMo begins tomorrow.

I look forward to this journey (adventure, passage,quest, challenge) with you.

-- Julie Jordan Scott

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