During my mini-retreat in Cork I dug out a number of old as-yet-unfinished or unpublished poems to see what I could breathe new life into. Re-use & recycle! Nothing’s wasted! Or is it?
Sometimes when I get out an old poem I find I’ve put enough distance between it and me, and now I’m able to see its flaws and work on it anew.
Other times I wonder if the whole poem needs to be killed off, like cutting a plant right down to an inch from the ground, letting in light and air, giving energy and space for new growth. When I re-read a poem I started years ago, if it doesn’t excite me enough to want to work on it further, I ask myself do I still want to say this? If yes, then can I go back to the first impetus – whatever it was that started me on this poem – and start again on an entirely new road?
I’ve come back from Cork with two re-worked poems I’m quite pleased with, two that I started to re-work but not yet feeling the love, and one ‘new start’ poem, still early days. Another poem is completely new, but the idea has been mulling for a while.
Meanwhile I’m very pleased to have had an acceptance from Magma, for their ‘Work’ themed issue coming up in July. I’m always banging on about there not being enough poems written about work, so of course I thought the theme was right up my Strasse – although an older version of the same poem was actually written for the Poetry News theme of ‘Hotel’ (also one of my favourite topics, so I was a bit miffed that the selector didn’t like my poem on that occasion!)
This hotel/work poem is a good example of the ‘re-use/recycle’ thing. Earliest versions from about two years ago bear no resemblance to the one that’s going into Magma. The fifth version was the one that Poetry News rejected. I then workshopped it both at Hastings Stanza and with poet friend Marion Tracy and it became more fractured and a lot darker. The title became weirder. Ian Duhig at the Garsdale Retreat last summer had some positive comments on it. I worked on it a bit more until it felt stronger and stranger, then sent it (by now, version 12) to The Poetry Review, where it was rejected. It was then in the drawer for six months until the Magma theme came up and I gave it one more outing. So persistence paid off, and by heck I was needing a confidence boost.
I hope you have similar stories to tell. Here’s to successful recycling, upcycling or whatever cycling floats your boat, so to speak.