Composed in 2012, “Autumn” was my first traditional poem, an ode to the season. Since then, I have learnt a great deal about poesy, and consequently, when I decided to include it in my anthology in the making, wanted to look at the composition anew.
Needless to say, I found it woefully inadequate, and over the past few months have transformed it into something that reflects my current level of skill. This reworked version is now complete.
The theme of the poem remains, but the stanzas are more focussed—rather than overflow with autumnal references (the exuberance of an inexperienced poet), they each dwell on one characteristic of the season instead. I am thrilled with the outcome!
To the next poem
I must now decide which sketch to develop next. I have been itching to work on “Little River” (started late last year, the final addition to the collection), but I prefer to proceed in the order sketches were first conceived (with a few inexorable exceptions).
Following this method, I have before me “Rains and Roads” (16 March 2017), “Cranes” and “Mountains” (both 18 March 2018), “Shepherd Girl” (12 May 2018) and “Autumn Day” (30 May 2018).
“Cranes” rehashes “Cranes and Sheep”, “Autumn Day” is hackneyed and “Mountains” has insufficient substance to be a poem in its own right. I intend to discard all three but will look for opportunities to weave their redeemable parts into other works.
“Rains and Roads” (on the joy of a wet winter’s day) and “Shepherd Girl” (a vignette of my mother’s childhood) both have potential. I grant myself the week to see which I am drawn to most.
The mechanics of artistic thinking is as interesting to me as what it produces. One part of my creative process I have not written about before is the use of mood boards.
Sometimes they are abstract—mental images of the scenes or incidents I wish to embody in verse; sometimes concrete—collages of photographs and words. Whatever the form, as I compose a poem (or musical work), I draw upon these as a source of ideas.
To illustrate, I include a simplified mood board1 for “Autumn” (the poem I am currently composing). In 2012, when the original version was composed, I had not yet developed the mood board approach—moreover, the poem was very much an impromptu affair.
Since then, my process has improved significantly. The mood board visuals keep before me what inspired the verse—evoking words and phrases to express the theme.
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.