Thursday, February 23, 2012

What drafting takes

I've never been into crosswords but I am addicted to drafting. I am so addicted to it that at times I have taken so much out of a poem, nothing's left. I can spend all day destroying a poem like that until the lines I handwrote in a book, transferred to screen, revert to notes again. Poems often fail. If the thought is worthwhile it'll come back. Sometimes it's not formed enough to express.

It's harder to put lines in so this is the task that can occupy me for days on end. Substituting words, changing the verbs, wondering if the intention is clear. And that is also where a workshop group comes in. I belong to two - one in Brighton organised by the extensively published Anglo-Polish poet, Maria Jastrzębska whose work is featured on Poetry International web. The other group meets in London and doesn't have a particular organiser, but I was invited by the highly respected poet and translator Moniza Alvi whom I met years ago when we were both students on an Arvon course at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire.

I went to the London group yesterday and came back with a page full of comments on a poem that's been troubling me for weeks. The first drafts didn't end well so it sat in my notebook and in a folder in different versions. I kept tinkering until eventually I realised it had no heart. I found two other poems I'd written around the same time - spokes coming from a similiar subject. One provided heart - just one line survived but it was enough to kick start my drafting again - another provided an ending.

It has a pretty regular rhythm, it wanted to move. New lines came when I was walking. And it is a poem about walking, so that made sense.

So I'll read it tonight at the Red Roaster - the first of a series organised by Michaela Ridgeway for PigHog press. I'm reading with Katy Evans-Bush, a Salt poet, editor of Horizon Review and writer of the blog, Baroque in Hackney which is keenly followed.

It's a patchwork poem and I'm not sure if I could calculate how much time it's taken up but this one must account for weeks of solid work.

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