Drafting & Redrafting

So you’ve written a poem. Now what?

Last week I wrote a poem inspired by the inimitable Rosie Garland, and since then I’ve been attempting to edit it. I still have several drafts going back and forth, so I thought this might be an interesting point at which to stop and have a discussion about what’s going on.

Rosie is an incredible writer and performer whom I was lucky enough to meet recently, and who you may have heard of through the Manchester Literature Festival this year. She had an interview printed in The Skinny this month (a free magazine available in Manchester and elsewhere), which focused on her new book, The Palace of Curiosities and discussed issues to do with difference and deviance. You can read the original article here (page 31!)

skinny-rosie-garland

I’ve been playing about a lot with sculpted/found poetry recently. You take a piece of writing (a poem, an article, a recipe) and cross out the words you don’t want until you’re left with a story/poem. It might not make any sense, but that doesn’t really matter.

The piece that I created from Rosie’s article was this:

Palace Writer,

tell Sexuality and Gender, whoever they might be,

feeling different

(a condition overwhelmingly visible)

Can be fraught.

We have too little supposed further.

Tell us the situation.

2013-10-20 18.22.30

Fun to write (and to read out) but it doesn’t mean much, so I had a play around with trying to find some sense in it.

In this version I had a go at writing a mirror poem, where you stop at the midway point and repeat the lines from the first half in reverse. The idea is that the opening half creates one meaning or atmosphere, and the second half turns it around. Very tricky to write and I don’t think I achieved much in terms of atmosphere, but I think I managed to find some kind of sense in it.

Tell us the situation, Palace Writer.

Sexuality and Gender have run the show

too long; they fray at the edges, and think

the game is up, but we’ve known all along

that they blur.

The game is up, but we’ve known all along:

too long. They fray at the edges, and think

Sexuality and Gender have run the show.

Tell us the situation, Palace Writer.

The repetition reminds me a little of the Triolet form, which is something I had a go at writing in the Stirred Poetry workshop last Sunday. Although lines are repeated several times in Triolet, you can break them in different places to create different meanings. More on that later.

After the mirror poem, I just tried taking different lines and images that jumped out at me from the original piece and trying to work up a new free verse piece.

Tell us the situation, Palace Writer.

Sexuality and Gender have run the show

too long; they fray at the edges, and think

the game is up, but we’ve known all along

that they blur.

 

Feeling different (a condition

overwhelmingly visible) can be fraught,

and you must have supposed, Writer,

that we would catch you.

 

When we wintered together,

eating thick cut bread and full fat milk,

to fill out our cold weather coats,

your smile was a thing I caught.

As yet unfinished, but I think it’s interesting how, towards the end, all sorts of different images were sparking in my head and I feel like with more drafting, this poem will become something very different from its starting point.

How to redraft

I think drafting and redrafting one’s writing is a fascinating process. Generally, it seems to be something that people have to learn themselves just by putting in a lot of time and hard work. I have never been formally taught methods or techniques for redrafting, and it’s only recently that I feel I’m beginning to get the hang of doing it.

Although I’ve studied creative writing units as part of my wider courses, I didn’t study it as the main focus of my degree which is possibly the cause for missing out on this. However, I believe it’s more the case that, in most cases, students and writers are rarely taught adequately how to give and take critique and criticism, and how to put the lessons learned into practice. I wonder how well this can be taught, or if it’s just something you have to learn by putting in the hours and keeping an open mind to what’s going on around you.

I’ve learned a great deal about my own writing from reading and critiquing others’ work. I think that while reading is undeniably useful to inspiration and writing style (and I harshly judge writers who claim not to read), I think that critiquing and editing others is invaluable to learning how to edit your own work, and to spot common mistakes/tropes (whether good or bad).

Most importantly

All that aside, by far the most important thing I’ve learned over the past year is that you can’t redraft if you haven’t written anything. Above all, you need to write. Write, write, write. The more you write, the more wheat you’ll find among the chaff.

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About sarahgracelogan

Sarah Grace is an itinerant scribbler and general layabout. She runs a writing group called CAKE.shortandsweet, because any form of procrastination from actual writing is always attractive to the serious author of refined taste. When not distracted by laser pens, Sarah Grace writes novels, short stories and flash fiction, poetry, stage scripts and screenplays. She has performed her work at Stirred Poetry, Bad Language and Tongue in Cheek Manchester. Her first publication, Humping the Boonies is a self-published chapbook available directly from the author, or from Travelling Man, Manchester. You can find more details about her ongoing projects, not to mention a selection of free stories up for grabs right here on her blog. https://sarahgracelogan.wordpress.com/about/ She also likes to talk about theatre, film, books, photography, and especially games and other things that involve collaborative storytelling. Sarah Grace likes feedback, in whatever form it comes.

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