I am undecided about its ultimate title, wavering between the simplicity of “A Morning Chat” and the sprightliness of “A Chat at Solitaire”—pum-pum pum-pum pum-paahm—which echoes the animation of the verse, but I am not pressed for a decision.
Incidentally, the date of the original draft is listed as 29 August 2020 when it came into being, but it emerged from the main poem, which was drafted 15 August 2018.
I resumed work on “A Late Winter Morning” today after two weeks otherwise occupied, chiefly with matters of secular life; it is clear to me that it will be many weeks before the poem is complete. Why then spend “whatever hour I could spare” these past two weeks buried in botanical books instead of devoting that time to the poem?
The reason is twofold: my rural surroundings inspire my work—studying its flora, fauna, topography and history I consider my duty—and in the writing of pieces like “A Wayside Wonderland”—in which I consolidate what I learn—I often produce lines that inspire new poems1. “Time well wasted” is the phrase I reserve for these moments.
The case with the above-mentioned piece, from which came a new poetic esquisse titled “A Lily” or “Lily in the Sedges” for a future anthology.
As I develop a poem, numerous variations on stanzas come as a result of the composition process: some with promise, others beyond redemption. Not once before has any among these become a poem in its own right—its lines either woven into the work for which it was conceived or discarded outright—until now.
One variation of the second stanza of “A Late Winter Morning” (a poem in progress), which began as a playful experiment with alliteration and rhyme, has become too colourful for the work (which is lively but restrained); reluctant to discard it, as normally I would, I have decided to extract it as a separate composition.
An offshoot of “A Late Winter Morning”, a poem in my anthology-in-progress, I intend to include it in the collection despite a previous resolution not to add new compositions to the set, developing it alongside “A Late Winter Morning” as a companion piece under the working title “A Morning Chat” or “A Chat at Solitaire”.
“Chat” here refers to the bird of that name, the African Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus), a vocal passerine along a stretch of dirt road towards an area known as Solitaire. On winter mornings, they utter their warbling calls from the wire fences (little puffs of vapour escaping from their beaks!), the subject of the offshoot poem.
It is late winter in my country, South Africa, and the poem on that subject (imaginatively titled “A Late Winter Morning”) is developing slower than expected. It seems to me I have not yet shaped its stanzas to my satisfaction—they contain my impressions of the season, but have not the internal coherence I desire in my work.
Then there are the time-consuming experiments of expression the poet must make—however confident of his lines he may be—for from those may come a thought, word, phrase or line that ignites his composition. Should he be successful, more time must be spent to actualise his discovery in the existing work—often, transforming it completely!
Presently, I am at the end of just such an explorative phase which has resulted in two compositional directions: the first with two stanzas, the second, three (in both cases, with several variations), that I must now attempt to refine. From whatever comes as a result, I shall ultimately choose a draft to develop into a final work.
“A Pear Tree” is complete, and I have moved to the next sketch, “A Late Winter Morning” (originally “A Partly Cloudy Morning”). Outlined in a rough stanza eleven days after the original “A Pear Tree” sketch, it describes the countryside at sunrise as it appeared to me upon an August morning in 2018.
Incidentally, I have reverted the titles of two finished poems to my original choices: “A Walk II” (wherein I remember my first Great Dane) is once again “You and I, My Hound!”, which necessitated the removal of the Roman numeral from “A Walk I” (wherein I remember my late friend, Jacques F. Visser).
Today was another winter idyll. It convinced me that late winter is the ideal time to launch this anthology: the days are crisp and clear, flocks bleat on the hills, and the pear tree blooms in the valley.
There are fourteen sketches left to develop. It takes me around four weeks to transform drafts into complete poems. Therefore, I project the compositions will be finished next year, about this time.
Protracted, but Appropriate
That would mean two more years before I publish them, if I were to commit to this late-winter launch date. This suits the project, since some time must be spent on producing the handmade books.
Moreover, I intend to devote a considerable amount of time to the creation of items supplementary to the anthology—a year to attend to these suits me well—wherefore I anticipate a launch only in 2022.
It is winter in my country, South Africa, and one of my favourite sights is the radiance of this road in the rain. When the clouds part, it shines silver in the sunlight—a simple occurrence that is an integral part of my sense of place1.
In the original 2012 version of the poem “Autumn” (my first Romantic work), this scene appeared; but, in the revised 2020 version, instead of the road, it became the river reflecting the sun (to preserve the concept of the stanza).
By “sense of place”, I mean one’s conception of “home”, as shaped by environmental components, such as topography, architectural style, rhythms, rituals, sights and sounds.
Today, I completed “A Pear Tree”, poem 31 in my prospective anthology of 42 lyric poems. A response to a pear tree in early bloom at the beginning of August (the last month of the South African winter), it has two short quatrains gushing over the unusual spectacle. Now that the poem is complete, I can recite it to the tree when it flowers (early again, I hope), this year! This, incidentally, is my first centre-aligned composition—a detail that seems to me wholly appropriate as a reflection of the tree’s symmetry.
Beside the dirt road that leads to the hamlet where I live, a pear tree stands alone at the edge of a field. Every year, it blooms at the beginning of August, a month before the arrival of the South African spring, delighting the passer-by modestly yet spectacularly. In August 2018, I wrote a few rough stanzas in response to that very tree under the working title “A Pear Tree”. Now, nearly two years later, I am ready to develop them into a finished poem.
Of course, the pear tree has inspired a poem. Another new draft—I shall never finish this project! Incidentally, the field where it grows was once an orchard, one of many. In days gone by, my village was known for its pear orchards, earning it the nickname "'Little Pears' Town". pic.twitter.com/YSDy67a7gu