Finding the perfect word for a line is like picking the perfect blossom for a flower arrangement. The right flower depends on a variety of factors: amongst others, its significance, shape, size, colour, texture, perfume and impact; and so does the right word.
One must consider its definition (literal or figurative), connotations, evocativeness, rhythm, sound (for example, its alliterative power) and composition (spelling or letters)—in fine, its ability to complement, enhance and complete the poetic bouquet so as to eloquently embody and convey the theme.
What is more, in a traditional poem, this is true for every word—in every line. Traditional verse is a delicate composition of the written and spoken word—not an amorphous outpouring of thought or emotion; it requires every ounce of ingenuity from the poet to bring into being, even in its simplest incarnations.
For the sake of symmetry, I am considering sacrificing the final verse from the “To a Swallow” draft. I may yet do so—once I assemble the selected variations into a poem and see the effect of the imbalance—but for now, it remains.
The poem has a traditional rhyming scheme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH IJIJ. The asymmetry is created by lines 12 (F2) and 16 (H2) that follow a similar pattern (the repetition of a word set; for example, “Da-dum! Da-dum! Da-dum!”)—an element I want to keep.
I must, therefore, either embrace the “imbalance” for the sake of evocation in lines 12 and 16 or rethink the poem structure (which strikes me as ridiculous) to satisfy my aesthetic inclinations.
It has been some time since I have shared the development of a poem visually. Here is the evolution of “To a Swallow”, from its first sketch to its current state, presented in two columns. The red text is notes, the colourful lettering how I keep track of alliteration, and the highlighted text those variations I am actively exploring towards the final work.
In the weeks to come, this welter of words will arrange itself into a traditional poem. By then, the word count of the document will likely be 13–15,000 words—it is now about 5000 (the final poem will be about 80)—needless to say, it will be some time before I arrive at a final draft. Incidentally, there are 16 poems completed (since 2017) and 28 unfinished—publishing in 2020 may be a somewhat optimistic goal!