Revising “Autumn”, Overcoming Attachment

When one revises an existing poem, it can be difficult to let go of some of its original ideas because they seem inextricable from the fabric of the composition. This has been my Achilles heel revising “Autumn”. Instead of accepting that I must forego certain parts of the original version to achieve a better work, I clung to elements I knew to be conceptually debilitating.

Over the past two days, as these shortcomings became ever more pronounced, I was forced to come to my senses; and lo, the beloved lines I lost were soon replaced by ones more fitting, liberated from the creative constraint that had plagued the revision hitherto.

“Autumn” was my first proper lyric poem.1 At the time (2012), it was an indulgence of my poetic ebullience, a manifestation of my love for Nature and Verse. Seven years later, it must be elevated into something greater: a work combining that love with skill and substance. Having embraced the inevitable, I can now do the composition justice whatever the cost to its first incarnation.

  1. I wrote a little about the significance of “Autumn” in my poetic journey in the fourth instalment of my “Artist Questions” series.

Revising “Autumn”, Continued

In the original version of “Autumn”—my first lyric poem proper—my enthusiasm for the subject resulted in an opening stanza that attempted to praise too much of the season at once. In a mere four lines, it mentioned autumn fires, bracing air, shorter days, bluer skies and green hills!

This exuberance was at odds with the rest of the stanzas which each focused on a single idea: stanza two on the morning mist, stanza three on the dew-drenched grass, stanza four on the flooding rains.

I have now rewritten the first stanza so that it follows the same approach, dwelling on one of its original points only: autumn fires. Instead of conveying much in passing (as one sweeps through the lines), the new version describes little in detail (with more words expended on the topic).

This adjustment does a great deal to improve the cohesiveness of the composition. There are one or two more decisions of this kind that need to be made; then I am confident I can come to a final draft.

Cattle on a Hill

Cattle on a Hill, 5 December 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Cows in the stubble with their young. (It is early summer in South Africa.)

I captured this impromptu photograph whilst out among the hills, late yesterday afternoon, and shared it with a friend. “It complements your art,” he said. The inverse, however, is true: my art seeks to complement it—indeed, the Overberg1 inspires the Theme (Wonder), Subject (Natural Beauty) and Style (Simple Lyric Poetry) of my work. Here, every resource must be husbanded, and the minimalism of the landscape is the result of drudgery. Both shape my attitude to words when I extol this region in verse.

  1. A rural region of the Western Cape province of South Africa.