To think that one agonises for weeks or months over what will be read or recited in a moment. A poet can but hope it is the sweetest moment in a reader’s life, echoing in his soul for a lifetime thereafter.

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.

Revising “Autumn”

Revising “Autumn”, 1 December 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
At the top, the refrain approach with the same phrase starting each line (presented in grey) and internal and end rhyming parts (presented in corresponding colours); at the bottom, the regular end-rhyming couplet approach.

A few days ago, I was ready to abandon the alternating refrain approach of the “Autumn” poem’s 2012 draft—where every second stanza is a couplet with the same starting phrase and internal and end rhyme—in favour of regular end-rhyming couplets.

My chief criticism of the refrains was that they felt, at times, contrived—forced and engineered—not so much contributing to as stunting the unfolding of the poem, wherefore I experimented with the regular couplet format as a more natural—spontaneous and fluent—alternative.

Yesterday, I decided to keep the refrains. In the original version, they emerged from the cadence of the stanzas—dum-di dum-di dum-dum, dum-di dum-di dum repeated in two successive lines—which I sought to emphasise with recurring starting phrases and internal and end rhyme.

At the time, it was perhaps an indulgence—“Autumn” was my first lyric poem—now, I embrace it fully. Already, it demands all my poetic ingenuity to make it work, but I am hopeful that I shall overcome the challenges and achieve an elegant outcome.

My biggest challenge revising the “Autumn” poem is the refrain element of the original draft (every second stanza is a couplet with internal and end rhyme). My sentimental side wants to retain this approach—to wrestle with it and test my poetic abilities; my imaginative side wants to be liberated from its constraints and explore the possibilities of regular rhyming couplets. Presently, I am developing lines for both—whichever produces the better stanzas will win in the end.