Well, even though not all of you are as excited about National Poetry Month as I am a few of you did comment on the giveaway post and the winner is: Kelly! I might still send a copy to Theric–out of pity–but I’m not so sure. Congrats Kelly!
The next item of business is my question: How the heck do you edit a poem?
It’s been said that poetry is the most subjective kind of literature. There are very few hard and fast rules and good poetry is mostly defined by intuition. As a reader I agree with this and it makes me feel pretty good because it gives me an break when I am completely lost. But as a (hopefully-someday-this-title-will-truly-apply-to-me) poet it frustrates me.
Here’s a poem I wrote that I think has potential but didn’t fulfill it:
If I Could (a poem for a meth-addicted baby)
If I could,
The first thing I would do is feed you.
I’d lift your thin and shaking body and hold it to my skin.
I’d let my breath wash over you and to the thrumming of my heart
I’d cradle you against my breast, nourish you with warmth
Inside and out.
I’d look into your steely eyes,
I’d run my fingers through your downy hair
I’d caress your cheeks, your toes, your impossibly tiny hands-
I’d hold them in my own,
I’d smell you and kiss you.
I’d revel in your newness and eternity.
I would turn back all the minutes and months that are your life
and make them mine.
I’d be your mother and take you inside me.
I’d make you, protect you, start you all new.
If I could
I would be everything to you.
But I’m not and I can’t. I’m
a witness, a spectator, a bystander-
Outside your spirit,
Outside your body,
Outside your bassinette-
Your life, sterile, unmingled, is your own.
This is your struggle and I’m on the outside
Praying Something will make a difference,
Praying Someone will find a way in.
Even as I read this poem now it feels half-baked. The writing of it met an emotional need for me and I enjoyed it but I don’t know how to move it out of the realm of my own head and into a place where others can find value in it. Obviously the ending is terrible. I’m also tempted to say I should just end it with the rhyming line, “I’d make you, protect you, start you all new./ If I could/ I’d be everything to you,” because the poem seems to fall apart from there. I wrote the second half because I was surprised by my own hubris. It shocked me that I felt that, if I could, I would override God’s will in someone’s life. But maybe that’s a different poem. I don’t know. Either way, the poem fails. It gets all confused and preachy at the end–and preachy poetry is the worst.
So what do you do? How do you go back and edit your poetry? Is it different than writing prose? What kind of things do you see in LDS/ Mormon poetry that you wish you didn’t?
p.s. I apologize for formatting issues. WordPress boggles my mind.