Wednesday, April 09, 2008

On writing free verse - a National Poetry Month post

Yesterday, I posted about the time it takes to write poetry. And then digressed mightily into the writing and editing of free verse.

Here is the sentence that was to be the genesis of the free verse poem:
"Today I walked through the woods as the light faded, heedless of nature until a rustling noise drew my attention to a litter of raccoons near the stream."

As I noted in yesterday's post, simply breaking the sentence into bite-sized morsels and stringing it onto separate lines does not convert it into free verse. There are too many unnecessary words in my sentence (including articles like "a" and "the" and prepositions), and not all the words in the sentence are the best possible choices to really let the reader into the experience.

Also, I had not decided whether to tell you a story ("Guess what I saw today?") or to take you with me ("Look at that!")

Here is my first effort at turning the sentence into something like an actual poem. Please know that this is not the best possible attempt, as I've been busily (er, make that frantically) preparing to leave for New Hampshire tomorrow morning, including shopping for the family, packing for myself and, oh yeah - that's right, getting my act together for the workshop I'll be leading on Saturday at the New England SCBWI Conference. (Saturday is unfortunately sold out already, which is an amazing turn of events.) But I digress.

Again, only a rough draft.

I turned my back on the lingering sun,
wandering into twilight woods.
My mind wandered farther than I;
I blundered along beside a brook,
lulled by its tune,
insensible of trees or forest when,
rounding a bend,
a shock of raccoon cubs
cavorting stream-side
awoke me to fully-present life.

Other poets engaged with the sentence-revision challenge include Sara Lewis Holmes and Kristy Dempsey. If you'd like to play too, just leave your link in the comments to today's or yesterday's posts.

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