Training event #3: Revision (My 600th post!)

Good Monday morning!

It has been a big weekend here at the Boll household. My husband who was away for 16 months with the Navy has returned. Right now we are in the Honeymoon portion of the adjustment period. Dad is a superstar and the boys are on their best behavior. Dinner was lovely (no one argued), weekend chores went well (they did what they were asked the first time)… hmmm why wasn’t it this way for the last year?!?

In some ways, my stress has been releaved. Right now, Hubby has the morning drive and dog walk task and here I am in the quiet of my newly cleaned office to think, and create.

Our family is going through a process of revision. We have to learn to see ourselves again in a different way. There are parts that we want to keep that make us stronger as individuals and as a unit and parts that hold us back from being our best selves. One way to come out happy on the other side of revision is honesty. Stay with me now, this applies to writing too.

In writing, there are bits we fall in love with. It may be an original line, a group of words, a character, a plot twist, but sometimes that bit we love may not be helping the entire piece shine. What follows is a longish post in which I work through the process and thinking of creating a poem. I’d love for you to grab a cup of tea and stick around. After you read, leave me a comment. Is my process similar to yours?

About a year ago while walking Lucy dog in the early morning winter,

IMG_1278

I came up with a group of words, “The snow shows, what my dog’s nose, knows.” I’ve been struggling to work a poem around this line. It started like this:

poetry revision 1 poetry revision 2

Then like this:

Waking to White

The moon winks in my window,
starry laughter fills the night,
My fingers find Nell’s furry ears,
and then I wake to white

Six feet on floor, we leave the bed,
a chill is in the air
Nell’s collar rings, my parents snore,
we skip the creaky stair.

Wet nose to knob, Nell has her coat,
a wagging welcome mat.
But wait I need one layer more,
a scarf, two boots, a hat.

We slice through cold, we run and leap,
into the covered field.
A rising sun, a rosy sky,
a sparkle show revealed.

Nell on her back, she wiggles, twists,
dog angels all around.
Woodsmoke fills the morning air,
but Nell just sniffs the ground.

Usually Nell leaves me out
I’ll never have her expert snout
Today for sure, I know I’ll win
I’ll be my doggie’s sniffing twin

The snow shows, what my dog’s nose,
knows.

At this point I’ve struck the pieces that are holding back the poem. I created a whole story here. Is it really necessary, I ask myself, all this build up? I really love the image of the moon in the first stanza, I can skip the kid and dog going down the stairs and getting ready to go outside if I trust that the reader knows a child wouldn’t be out in the snow in their PJ’s. Also, the piece about Nell already having her coat is a little inside joke to myself and a homage to Else Holmelund Minarik’s, “What will Little Bear wear?” The next stanza brings the child and dog outside, and I also like the imagery of a sparkle show. What if I turned those couplets around in order? Then the transition from night to day, inside to outside, calm to play might work better.

A rising sun, a rosy sky,
a sparkle show revealed.
We slice through cold, we run and leap,
into the covered field.

Nope. That doesn’t work for me. Even though the syllables, 8 in the first line and 6 in the second, are the same, “a sparkle show revealed” feels more settled and doesn’t lead into the next line. Also, going straight from the child waking to being in the snow is too abrupt. Hmmm…

What about this:

All suited up, we’re out the door
into the snowy field.
A rising sun, a rosy sky,
a sparkle show revealed. 

I lose the active verb “slice,” which I liked, but now I’ve gained “snowy” which helps the reader who might not have gotten that the white in the first stanza was snow. I like this better.

Now I have to deal with the fourth stanza which bothers me because the rhythm changes from 8 and 6 syllables to: 7, 8, 8, 8. This ups the pace and let’s the reader know something is going to happen but to me, it feels a little drastic.

What I need here, to make the final line work, is to set up the contrast between between Nell’s abilities to track invisible scents and the experience of the child who can finally see the critter pathways in the snow. But wait, doesn’t the last line already say all that? What happens if I just ax that fourth stanza?

Nell on her back, she wiggles, twists,
dog angels all around.
Woodsmoke fills the morning air,
but Nell just sniffs the ground.

The snow shows,
what my dog’s nose,
knows.

This doesn’t feel right either. I still feel that the contrast between human and dog, grass and snow aren’t specific enough. While I’m driving in the car, I come up with the line, “critter paths, hide in summer grass” which is 8 syllables long. This is the same number of syllables as the pay-off line at the end. It also fulfills that transition and contrast void I was feeling. Here is the final poem.

Waking to White
By Anna J. Boll

The moon winks in my window,
starry laughter fills the night,
My fingers find Nell’s furry ears,
and then I wake to white

All suited up, we’re out the door
into the snowy field.
A rising sun, a rosy sky,
a sparkle show revealed.

Nell on her back, she wiggles, twists,
dog angels all around.
Woodsmoke fills the morning air,
but Nell just sniffs the ground.

Critter paths,
hide in summer grass
but snow shows,
what my dog’s nose
knows.

Thanks for reading Creative Chaos.  I’d love to see your comments, what would you like to see? Happy revising!

4 thoughts on “Training event #3: Revision (My 600th post!)

    1. Thank, You for taking the time to read and comment and for your kind note. I hope you’ll follow me next week as I participate in March Madness Poetry 2013. thinkkidthink.com

  1. Hi Anna. I am happy for you that your husband is home. I’ll pray for the honeymoon to last forever as you readjust to being a twosome once more. I love your poem and it was fun to see how you worked your way to such a picturesque version. The reason I enjoyed it so much is that I love snow. Blessings, Hope

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