A Poem Evolves, Continued

“Mist from the Mountains” first direction in progress, 30 September 2019. Copyright 2017 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

This is the entirety of the “multi-stanza” sub-direction of the first direction for the “Mist from the Mountains” poem, thus far. (Not shown are the additional writings for the first direction’s “variations” sub-direction, the second “one-stanza” direction and the third “two-stanza” direction—all yet to be fully explored.)

This is how my poems usually develop—an explosion of lines that coalesce into verses that I write and rewrite, experimenting with different ways of expressing the theme. The result is the nebulous mass of words, lines, stanzas and notes you see above.1

The three columns on page four each contain a version of the “multi-stanza” draft as it exists currently. They are essentially the same—extracted from pages one to three—but with sufficient differences in rhyming sets that they must now be considered separately. From these will emerge the final “multi-stanza” poem.

  1. “Poet. Pedant.” explains how I end up with so colourful a body of text.

A Poem Evolves

“A Poem Evolves” Title Card, 29 September 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

I am still developing the “multi-stanza” sub-direction of the three directions I envisage for the “Mist from the Mountains” sketch. Interestingly, as it has evolved, it has assimilated both the second and third directions and its own “variations” sub-direction (that is, to present individual stanza variations as a set under one title).

I would still like to investigate the “variations” sub-direction in addition to the second “one-stanza précis” direction (a quatrain summarising the “multi-stanza” version I am developing now), but it seems the third “two-stanza précis” direction is all but obsolete, absorbed into the “multi-stanza” sub-direction.

I attempt to clarify the convolutions of this evolution in the graphic above. The organic nature of the creative process makes for odd descriptions and naming with little regard for order or logic—wherefore the “direction” numbering is not sequential in the diagram: one, three, two—but I hope it illustrates what I am developing.

Early Bard Catches the Word

It was overcast yesterday with heavy fog on the mountains and so the aptest weather for working on “Mist from the Mountains”. Today, the fog persists, accompanied by heavy rain early this morning. Venturing out regardless, just before first light, I surveyed the fog-laden mountains and was rewarded with the perfect word for a line in the poem that has troubled me over the past few days (not the “Solemn, sombre and slow” line I singled out yesterday but the one that follows it). It seems the early bard catches the word.

A Word Order Conundrum

“Word Order Conundrum” Title Card, 28 September 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

I find myself, presently, saddled with the odd conundrum of the order in which to arrange the words “sombre”, “solemn” and “slow” in a line. “Slow” is easy, it is the rhyming element of the line and therefore must come last, but its companions are deliberately so similar in construction and pronunciation that they are interchangeable.

This is an annoyance to a pedant who wants a rationale for all things.

Of course, the purpose here is the similarity and, therefore, interchangeability—perhaps I should look to visual alliteration for the answer: “ol” in “solemn” appears reversed in “slow” and thus “Solemn, sombre and slow” is aesthetically most pleasing—but what a pity there is no linguistic rule (that I know) that specifically here applies!

A Sunbird in the Blossoms

A Sunbird in the Blossoms, 26 September 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

© 2019 Forgotten Fields

The South African spring brings blossoms and sunbirds to the garden. Surprisingly forgiving of my intrusion, they permit me to come within less than a metre (four feet) of their presence, allowing me to capture photographs like this one.

This is a Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus) male, named for the bright red and blue (not obvious here) bands upon its chest. Its Afrikaans name, Klein-rooibandsuikerbekkie1, translates to “little-redbandsugarbeak”.

  1. Pronounced [cleyn–Roowaybunt–soykeRbecky] with a trilled [RRR].

How Many Sheep?

Mist on the Mountain, 8 December 2017. Copyright 2017 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
The sight that gave rise to the “Mist from the Mountains” esquisse. (Taken 8 December 2017)

As I develop “Mist from the Mountains”, my mother’s time as a little shepherd is of great interest to me:

“How high up the mountain did you watch the sheep as a girl?”

“High. Do you see that fold between the peaks? The kraal1 was just over the ridge.”

“How many sheep?”

“I cannot recall…”

“One?”

“No.”

“Two?”

“Hum, we must have had about twenty; then Uncle Mike would throw in his flock—so, about forty sheep.”
  1. Afrikaans, pronounced [kRaahl] with a trilled [RRR]: a pen, in this instance, for the enclosure of sheep.

It is a peculiarity of writing that the word you confidently rejected yesterday, today is suddenly perfect. Nothing has changed in the line—it is you who perceive it anew.

Niggly Positions

“Niggly Positions” Title Card, 26 September 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

I recently wrote that a line should, in every sense, reflect its content. This rule (which may, of course, be exquisitely broken by the capable) has a profound impact on the words within the line, the line within the stanza and the stanza within the poem.

A line is a collection of words and a stanza, a collection of lines—all in a particular order—from which the mind assembles meaning and constructs concepts, making their very position within a poem—and especially a traditional one—highly significant.

For example, in a “Mist from the Mountains” stanza variation, “below” appears in the second line of the quatrain and, therefore, above its halfway mark, undermining its meaning and compromising its import (the quatrain itself is the third of four stanzas).

Were it not for this issue, the variation would have succeeded; but in this form, it fails. To be saved, its lines must be rearranged so that “below” appears either in line three or four. This I did, considerably improving the stanza and thus the poem.

A line that succeeds on its own may not succeed in a verse, and so a verse in a poem, a poem in a collection, and a collection in a tradition. Context is everything—for it determines everything.