On the eve of a writer’s conference I’m attending in Edmonton this weekend, I’m busy tinkering with some abandoned poetry that didn’t quite make it into my manuscript.
I’ve heard people say that for every poem you include in your collection, there’s usually five or six that don’t make the cut. That’s an intimidating number of poems, but considering the length of my “Poetry Drafts” file, I’m just about there. Sometimes it’s easy to know when a poem isn’t working, sometimes it’s hard to let go.
A particular favourite of mine is a poem about Mother Nature and her Christmas baking. While writing this poem, I imagined a child looking out into a white, wintery world and imagining Mother Nature busily baking for her visitors at Christmastime.
Here’s a small snippet:
Stand stiffly whipped and sweet,
Above valleys of marshmallow mounds…
I guess I have two issues with this poem. One, it doesn’t rhyme. Obviously not all poems have to rhyme, even poems for kids, but all the other poems in my manuscript do. They follow a similar rhythm and are riddled with snappy, silly lines (in my humble opinion). This poem, while lovely (ok, in my not-so-humble opinion) just doesn’t fit in.
The second issue I have this with poem is the language. It’s a bit sophisticated for a children’s poem. I personally love language of all levels when it comes to reading to my kids, but there are limits. Using the word meringue in a children’s poem pushes those limits just a wee bit. (And I have to be prudent since I’m already sneaking in words like quandary, kinfolk, ponder, fickle…. Oh dear. I might have to revisit these. At least the kids are learning something?)
Still, I do love the sweetness of this poem, so it’s hard to let it go. The editor I’ve been working with suggested rearranging it slightly so it makes a better fit, but I haven’t been successful. I’ll keep trying.
Another favourite is a poem I wrote in 2009 after my first daughter was born. She was a few weeks old, I was post-partum and possibly high on hormones, and I kept catching glimpses of myself in her. She had my eyes, my nose, my ears, my toes. It was trippy. So I wrote a poem about it:
Are those my lovely little digits?
My wiggles, wobbles, fits and fidgets?
This poem does rhyme and has some fun, fanciful words (which is great when reading to kids) but it’s told from the perspective of an adult. And it’s a little sappy. It just didn’t fit in with the other poems in the collection, which are told from the POV of kids (and animals) and are much more light-hearted. So this homage to my daughter, while cute and meaningful, didn’t make the cut either.
It’s tough to mine through your very personal, mostly random work to create a collection that makes sense. Most of my poems are silly, some have themes of the sea or the seaside, and all of them feel very special to me.
I’m hoping to find some inspiration (and courage) this weekend to make those final finishes to my collection. Because if you’re ever in need of some brutal but necessary feedback, just ask a roomful of writers. Or a roomful of kids. But at least writers can buy you a drink afterwards.