Journey of a Poem: The Bare Bones

Reading the article by Michael Mohammed Ahmad about the universality of bad writing and bad attitudes towards receiving feedback was an experience which had me laughing and wincing in recognition. It’s a harsh article, but perhaps a very necessary one. I’ve read (and written) an excess of lines which are too pretty, too laboured, trying just a little too hard to RAM the point down the readers’ throat, and I couldn’t agree more with his recommendation ‘to write something honest, specific, tangible, to use original metaphors and symbols that I could see in my mind’s eye, and to write something that was not a rehash of what they had been conditioned to believe a poem should be’.

My particular problem in poetry is that I go too unfiltered and raw, trying to fit in all the ideas and metaphors, all the images and juxtapositions which occur to me. It’s almost like I scribble down from dictation. Which is fine for a first draft, but a poem requires far, far more subtlety and editing!


So I thought it might be fun to share with you the journey of a poem. Here is the ‘raw material’ for a poem which I jotted down following a pique of anger at the weekend. I will be working on it over the next few weeks and provide regular updates, the reasons behind the changes I make, links to poets who’ve done it better than myself etc. I hope it’s a fun way of approaching poetry for those of you who don’t read it so much for enjoyment or find it too ‘ivory tower.’ For the time being, since it’s just an info dump, I’ve not used any punctuation. It’s the way I always start a poem – making a note of certain ideas or feelings before I forget.

Outwit with passwords
you do me
fat on apps, accounts and Facebook foxiness
offshore squirrelling

Outrun in the gym
to keep yourself trim
belly suck and crow superior

Outcry me with your pulled muscles
nestle in your tea-based need
triumphant in your bedrest
you ignore panda-eyed flu ghosts around you

Outmother me, won’t you,
all laughter and scientific depth
masking the many hours of boredom
which you refused to partake
the allure of long-distance parenting
Swiss chocolate vs. squished pies
drowned in custard

17 thoughts on “Journey of a Poem: The Bare Bones”

  1. Nice, I like it exactly as it is. On a sidenote: If the day comes that I’ll tweet all your posts. Either I’ll find an automatic solution or I’ll rethink what I want to do

      1. Nope. I meant that I’ve realized that I tweet at least 99% of all of your posts. Which may or may not justify an automated solution. (‘end of bad joke’)

  2. I know exactly what you mean about the value of looking honestly at ourselves as writers, Marina Sofia. I ought to read that article. In the meantime…I love it that you’re willing to share your poem as it evolves. You do have some fine stuff here and I’m eager to see where you take it.

  3. Absolutely wonderful idea….to follow the craft process of writing a poem! I read poems (not enough…) try to decipher them but the layers and layers of thought that go into the making of the poem are always invisible. I read a poem this morning that I just cannot get out of me head…poet who just wants to write and avoid fame, fortune… like Wallace Stevens:
    “He’d rather slime along than be heroic.”
    I just wanted to share that with you!

    1. Exactly – I’ve often wanted to examine those layers of thought. Most stories of the poem’s origins is something about a flash of inspiration, an image, a sound or an event which gave rise to it, rather than the painful process of revision. I just hope I can go somewhere with it and it won’t end up on the cutting floor!

  4. I recently attended an editing workshop with a Canadian poet who is also an editor with a major small publisher (we’re talking Canada, even major publishers are small publishers outside of Penguin/Random House). He recommended leaving a poem as long as one year between edits (!), a story at least a month, and a blog post a day. He used one of his pieces to illustrate the evolution of one his poems over time. Most interesting! He is fortunate to have a group of fellow writers to work with that have been together (circumstances and location allowing) for 20 years. The truth is, no poem or other piece of writing emerges fully formed.

    1. I have poems which still don’t feel right, after 3-4 years and numerous rewrites, so I completely agree. I also think you can get so much from other poets whose opinion you trust. I have a precious mentor, but I don’t dare to bother her too frequently with my poems, so I just give her those ‘puzzles’ – the ones that are missing something but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Do share your thoughts!

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