The Next Sketch

Blue Cranes Among the Dusty Merino Sheep, 8 February 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Blue cranes among the dusty Merino sheep. Taken earlier this year in February (summer in South Africa).

I am slowly accepting the completion of the “Mist on the Mountain” poem. There is almost always at this stage of an artwork a suspicion in me that I have left some word—some line or stanza—unturned, that there is some idea upon which I can improve; and so I try this and that but invariably return to the version that appears in the final draft.

These last little experiments are reverberations of the writing process: so caught up is one in a cycle of exploring, critiquing and refining, one is left spinning for a time after the work is done; but as I endlessly recite the final draft—I must now surely have done so more than a thousand times (this is not an exaggeration on my part)—it begins to feel “right”.

The while I look tentatively at the next sketch.

My list1 suggests “The Batis II”, a haiku conceived as a companion to “The Batis I”, but since I have applied its concept to the “Feather” and “Zephyr” haiku set, it is pointless to pursue. “Dust and Blue”, therefore, is next. The working title refers to a sight in late December 20172 of dusty Merino Sheep3 against the hillsides and Blue Cranes4 against the sky.

Yesterday, I read through the initial draft of the sketch—three rough free-verse variations that came to me upon surveying the scene—and extracted from them a potential framework for the verse’s ultimate traditional—that is, lyric—structure. Already I see its potential—but first I must recite “Mist on the Mountain” a few thousand times more.

  1. I posted an updated version of the poem list yesterday.
  2. Summer in South Africa (December to February)
  3. Merino Sheep, taken in January (midsummer in South Africa) last year.
  4. Blue Cranes, taken in early autumn (March to May in South Africa) last year.

To my amazement, I have chosen a final variation for the last stanza of “Mist on the Mountain”, and the poem is complete! I shall now spend a few more days reviewing it—that is, reading, reciting and editing it where necessary—but I mark it on my list as a finished work. I should add that there is an alternative version of the poem which I keep as a personal indulgence rather than a possibility for the collection. It differs from the final draft in the first three stanzas where a few significant words are replaced, and in the fourth stanza where I use an anecdotal approach.

Poetry Publication Progress (2019-10-16)

A Poem Evolves, Yet Again

Yesterday, whilst preparing the near-final draft of the “Mist” poem (previously “Mist from the Mountains”)—that is, extracting from the latest stanza variations the ones I intend to refine for the final draft—there came to me suddenly a new perspective on that ever-challenging closing stanza.

Hitherto, it had been intentionally styled as an anecdote—an afterthought, if you will, to reflect its origin—but a quick (and surprisingly successful) experiment produced a new set of variations that explicitly echo the structure of the rest of the poem, firmly establishing its thematic import.

I must now decide which conceptual approach to embrace as I come to the final draft: one embodying the origin of the stanza—thematically apt but structurally distinct from the rest of the poem—or one approximating the same but structurally alike and integrated—this is my task today.

It is painful to forego an existing set of variations for another altogether new (with its concomitant implications to be determined and applied to the rest of the poem)—but it may be inevitable. Why then write these paragraphs instead of beginning the work? To brace myself should it happen!