Sometimes, a poem takes on a very different form, once the writing process begins, and the first draft is but a germ. What started as a playful two-stanza composition about the moods of the wind, has through many variations become a meditation on its gentler moments, manifesting itself in three separate poems (a trend of late) bearing no resemblance to the original sketch.1
The original first stanza—incidentally, inspired by a note made whilst working on “Most Sublime” (of which I wrote in “This November”, paragraph 10): “Stroking, playing, flowing, rolling, / Rippling in the grass! // Lapping, skipping, dancing, strolling, / Never where it was!”. The transformation was the result of an image evoked by “To a Wild Flower I”, creating a style more contemplative than gambolling.
They are, in order of likelihood of inclusion in the anthology: “The Wind at the Wayside”, a delicate reverie on the lightest zephyrs of spring; “On the Wind”, a variation on that subject, drawing on the same imagery; and “Ataraxia”—a word derived from Ancient Greek that refers to a state of serene calmness—a distillation of the aforementioned poems in a single four-line stanza.
The Wild Flower Trio
Next is the “Wild Flower Trio”, three poems inspired by floral finds on a heathery mountain slope in the spring of 2018. Four sketches resulted from that indelible excursion of which I wrote in “This December”. It has been two years since then, but the textures, perfumes, sights and sounds are vivid within me as I slowly move my thoughts to “Rietpypie”2, the first of the set.
“Rietpypie” is Afrikaans for “little reed pipe” (pronounced “Rietpaypy” with a trilled [R]).
“Bergpypie” is Afrikaans for “little mountain pipe” (pronounced “behRCHpaypy” with a trilled [R], the guttural [CH] sound in “loch”(not the [ck] in “lock”) and the [i] in “did”).
“To a Wild Flower”, previously “Little Evening Lily”, is complete! What began as a single sketch—an ode to my beloved Gladiolus liliaceus in all its incarnations—has blossomed into three separate poems: I. “Lovely Wayside Lily”, II. “There Is No Other Lily . . .” and III. “Wondrous Afrikaner”.
As expected, it took four months to develop the three variations, each dwelling in short and simple lines upon those aspects of the flower that charm me most. I am content that I have poured into the stanzas my naïve appreciation of the flower’s beauty and eagerly await September that I may recite to it my laudations.
Next, I shall develop “The Wind!”, a sketch outlined in November 2018, one of several compositions on the titular theme. Wild flowers, birds, beasts, hills, fields and the wind: these move me to verse! For the moments when they leave me speechless, I write poems bursting with praise.
It is high summer in South Africa, and buzzards are a frequent sight—solitary raptors perched on posts at the waysides. Some take flight at the slightest disturbance, but others are unhindered, stilly surveying the scene.
There are also swallows and swifts on the wing, low over the fields and dirt roads. Whilst the buzzard gazes intently at the grasses below, they feed on flying insects—a spectacle for any who will stop to admire it.
It is sights such as these that compel me to labour at poetry in its traditional sense, to assemble rhyming stanzas that delight in the rural scenes about me—compositions as joyful and simple as the countryside they extol.
Writing Steady and Slow
That said, this month past, I have done little writing, using the time to rest and reflect upon my progress in poetic and professional life. In both, I have become convinced that a qualitative approach suits me best.
Therefore, I shall continue my current pace, taking as much time as my compositions require. In this anthology, there are nine unfinished sketches, excluding the “Little Evening Lily” set I am currently developing.
If, as is typically the case, I spend a month on a poem, that should see the compositional part of the anthology completed by the end of the year. I shall then spend a few months more preparing for its publication.