Thursday, December 17, 2009

November Chapbook Challenge

I am not quite sure what a chapbook is supposed to look like, but I made one anyway. It’s not quite stitched together and all that, but looks impressive anyway!

During the month of November, I joined in the Writer’s Digest Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge. Things in my personal life were pretty grim and I needed the distraction. I think I also needed the discipline of trying to write poetry more regularly than I do, and challenge myself to write less inspirational stuff.

The final hurdle was to choose some of the poems, edit them, and present the chapbook manuscript.

I tend to shy away from editing my poems. I change the odd word here and there, but on the whole, what I write remains untouched. I once went to Creative Writing workshop and during one of the breaks I talked to the tutor about one of my poems, asking advice about how to improve what I had written. She suggested changing the order of the verses, and altering a phrase or two.

Who of us would give birth to a baby and then start rearranging the parts, moving an arm a few inches one way, or swapping blue eyes for brown? That is how I tend to see my poetry – not to be messed with! A poem isn’t a baby – one can rearrange lines and verses if one chooses. I have to stop seeing my poems as things written in stone.

Having been told to edit, and having carefully read through some of the poetry workshops, I set about a bit if rearranging.

One of the suggestions was about re-writing a rhymed piece without the rhyme. I friend of mine thinks that I think in rhyme! I suppose that most of the poetry that I have shared with her, in a church meeting, had been rhymed. I chose one of the poems, tore away the rhymes and the meter, fished about for the essence of what I wanted to say, and then built the poem back up. I suppose that writing in rhyme puts in limitations straight away. I have never been quite so confident that some of my free verse has sufficient structure to call it poetry. I did like the edited version. It has more heart, I suppose.

Another suggestion was to re-write a first person poem in the third person. In changing “I” for “She” the reader becomes more of an observer rather than a participator. It puts an interesting slant to it.

My husband was reading my chapbook lat night. Where I was impressed with the actual construction of it, the page numbering and all that, he was impressed with the poems. He made the comment that once something like a poem, or a story is written down, and someone else gets to read it, the writer ceases to have any ownership of it. The reader brings to the reading of the poem their own experiences and life history. What they read and what the writer wrote may not always be the same.

Take for instance one poem in particular. Among the chosen selection there were some that didn’t get changed, simply because no changes could have improved what I already had.


A single word
Crammed with insult and innuendo
From lips that once kissed
Detonated inside my heart
A shower of spiteful syllables
Ripped through my soul
Shredding my spirit

Your shrapnel
Left me crippled

When I wrote it, I was responding to a prompt. I wouldn’t say that what I wrote was particularly personal, although I have been on the receiving end of thoughtless and hurtful comments. When Joe read the poem, he thought that it was personal and apologised for anything he had said that had caused so much hurt.

He also said that it reminded him of Siegfried Sassoon’s war poetry. He is a man that knows his poetry, so a comment like that is not easily dismissed!

So, my foray into the world of chapbooks is proving to be interesting!

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