A Pause

I wrote yet another new poetic sketch yesterday—the sunlight through the clouds on the wheatfields was magical—and had to pause.

It occurred to me that I had been treating the collection like an infinite publication, and of course, it cannot be so—a limit must be set.

I have therefore put this new sketch into a “for a future collection” category, and shall do the same with all new poetic sketches.

The Evolution of a Poem

Evolution of "To a Swallow", 04 May 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

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!

A New Chapter, Revisited

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Allow me to revisit “A New Chapter” as I try to make sense of the situation into which I have launched myself, following my disillusion with social media1. It is my goal here to consolidate my view on the matter with the benefit of a calmer, more collected and objective state of mind.

Resolve

My cause is Romantic—the adoration of nature through Art (music and poetry, in my case)—but this project did not begin with so grand an ideal. It started as a creative resolution to an emotional struggle, evolving into the artistic endeavour it is today. In this new form, it took on a life of its own, generating the inevitable extensions of a modern day project—a brand, website, social media presence, and other requisite additions—into which, in an attempt to present something valuable, I invested as much attention as I did in the project proper.

Romance

At the end of 2018, I summarised this manifestation of the project in the following paragraphs from “This December”2:

Therefore, in the year to come, I shall continue to post to social media and write monthly digests3 on this blog. It is of great benefit to me to reflect periodically upon my work and the essays allow me to do just that: to consolidate my ideas, discuss my process, evaluate what I create and document my progress—in fine, to diarise my artistic endeavours. Whether this has any value to a reader, I do not know—the kind of person who takes an interest in my work is unlikely to be forthcoming on the subject—but I must proceed regardless.

I take great care to produce what is meaningful to others: whether inspirations, ideas or the results of these. Were I to fail in this quest, nothing would displease me more. That notwithstanding, the goal of this project remains unchanged. It is still an expression of everything I have come to value and a task I find deeply fulfilling. Its purpose is not to generate wealth, accolades or fame, but something nobler: to celebrate Beauty. And what better way to celebrate than with others?

At this time, I also joined crowdfunding platform SubscribeStar4, outlining my motivations in “This February”5 thus:

I am delighted to share that I have joined SubscribeStar, a platform enabling one to support a creator through a subscription. My reasons for doing so are to create an opportunity to support what I do, and to establish a space where I may experiment with ideas. Whether on matters philosophical, sacred or secular—in the form of essays, musical and poetic sketches or photography—it shall be my studio; a creative laboratory, if you will.

The artistic process is complex; the thinking of the artist obscure. On SubscribeStar, I shall clarify my process and thinking in the company of sympathetic minds with whom I hope to deliberate. I shall treat it also as a journal wherein I may share the updates, observations and discoveries hitherto contained in the monthly digests.

It all seemed to me a logical progression, and I was, all things considered, confident about the direction.

Reason

I would subsequently learn that in my fundamental premise I was misguided: no one valued my contributions—at least, not sufficiently to move them to support me in this way. This brought me to an impasse, one I resolved by terminating my social media accounts and adopting, in effect, my blog and SubscribeStar as their replacements. The latter, however, created another conflict that also needed attention.

I had to admit that in my case, SubscribeStar was not a workable idea. Firstly, my artist cycle is not suited to a monthly subscription model. Periods between my releases are too long. For example, the poetry collection I am working on at the moment will not be realised for another year—and even then, a one-time donation would be the most logical approach to fundraising for its production6, rather than a monthly subscription.

Secondly, SubscribeStar required me to devise rewards for subscription tiers. Given what I have just explained, I had only content typically reserved for my blog to offer. However, in placing this content behind a paywall, I encountered a circumstance at odds with my primary reasons for being online—that is, to provide insight into my artistic philosophy and to abate some of the isolation one feels in the artistic process. How then do I make restricted what I require to be public? There seemed to me no solution to this dilemma that was not also deeply contradicting.

Reality

It was, therefore, only logical to conclude that I must also abandon SubscribeStar along with social media, ceasing there all activity and concentrating instead on my blog. To this end then, I have moved all the SubscribeStar paywall content to the blog and made it public under a new category titled SubscribeStar7. The “Artist Questions”8 series I started on SubscribeStar, I shall continue on the blog9, as well as the periodic screen-share livestreams while I work.

Over the past three years, I have put much time, care and effort into my social media accounts and it would be senseless, I think, to remove them (and indeed SubscribeStar) entirely. I had considered reconstructing the timelines on my website, but this to me is equally senseless, whilst the platforms themselves exist. I leave them, therefore, as they are10. At the very least, they have value as an archive of the development of this project on the platforms in question.

Having made sense of this situation then, I proceed untroubled with what is important in life, with or without followers, namely Art.

Footnotes

  1. “A New Chapter” outlines my initial reaction.
  2. “This December”
  3. The “This Month” posts were a series of monthly digests started in January 2018 and ending in February 2019.
  4. Forgotten Fields on SubscribeStar.
  5. “This February”
  6. Something I would almost certainly do privately, if the response of my followers is an indication of their interest in my work. I shall not entertain here the possibility that my work is of no interest to them at all, for it begs the question—one I cannot meaningfully answer: why follow me at all?
  7. SubscribeStar Blog Category
  8. A series in which I answered (and shall continue to answer) art-related questions.
  9. Though with less frequency, as my priority shall be the completion of the poetry publication.
  10. Forgotten Fields on Facebook and Twitter.

The Value of Reflection

I completed “The Leaves” a few months ago. Today, I changed a few significant words within the two short verses to make them more consistent with the autumnal scene the poem describes, and whilst doing so was reminded anew of the benefits of distancing oneself from a work (completed or not) for an extended period.

Returning to a work after days, weeks and in this case months (but also years, as I found in another instance1), helps one see it more objectively, unrestricted by the sentimentality that sets in; for in the thick of the writing process, besotted with a line, a word or an idea, it can be difficult to let go and consider possibilities more ideal.

Depending on one’s level of self-awareness, the work will often suffer to some degree as a result, and it takes a tremendous amount of humility (and courage) to admit to oneself that a particular cherished idea is simply not the best. Distance allows one to reflect upon it all, to comprehend and appreciate what one has set out to do2.

SubscribeStar Poetry Publication Progress (2019-04-15)
SubscribeStar Poetry Publication Progress (2019-04-15)

Footnotes

  1. From my Twitter account (no longer active): “An idea may come to one in an instant but giving it form takes days, weeks, months, even years. I remember composing ‘Autumn’, one of my earliest poems, in 2012. It was completed in a matter of hours; and whilst the result is adequate, I now consider it nothing more than a draft.” (Tweeted 1 April 2019)
  2. Incidentally, in my ceaseless quest for simplicity, I have also reduced the title to “Leaves”.

“To a Swallow” Update

I have now extracted from all the various verse variations those options that contain within their lines the most evocative expression of the poetic theme: freedom. The text does not quite resemble in its structure a poem yet—as there are many word and line variations within the verses (which I separate with slashes, for example, “skipping/slipping/sweeping/swooping”), making them appear convoluted—but the familiar traditional stanza shape will slowly emerge from the nebula in the weeks to come.

“To a Swallow II”

The next poetic sketch I shall develop is on a favourite subject: swallows. It is yet another attempt at exalting the loveliest of birds. The South African autumn is here, and they will soon begin their northward journey; when they return in September, I shall welcome them again—with verse!

The working title of this draft is “To a Swallow II”1, a celebration of the birds at the height of summer. It follows “To a Swallow I” (now “Swallows!”), which welcomes them in spring. I have already begun testing variations on one of the lines and shall immerse myself in the work in the weeks to come.

Footnotes

  1. I thought of titling “To a Swallow II” “Lines Written upon Watching a Flight of Swallows in Late Spring”, in the spirit of Wordsworth’s elaborate “Ode, Composed upon an Evening of Extraordinary Splendour and Beauty”; but I was inspired by his simpler “To a…” convention instead. (Since “To a Swallow I” no longer exists as a title, I have decided to remove the Roman numeral, making the working title of this poem “To a Swallow”, for the time being.)