Spring comes drumming through
Breaking loose ice in the creek–
Destroying a beaver dam.
And with the unexpected noise-
The un-damming of my heart
A softening of my bones
A juiciness of loins
A waving of budding branches
In a new born wind-
Encircling like tender arms
A phantom will o’ wisp lover.
Spring comes drumming through,
Cracking open where winter nailed me shut.
This is a short, simple poem, but it packs punch. At least to some readers. Recently I submitted it to a small poetry group for some crits. Only one person suggested anything: it was, in my opinion, a thorough gutting of this poem. Sometimes it’s necessary to gut a poem like a fish, but you have to be careful who is asked, and also be aware of what happens to the poem when you embrace changes.
Obviously it changes, but sometimes it also disappears completely. The intent and power can be gutted along with some lines. Be very careful of this.
The most important part of a poem is its power: do the words express what you want exactly? Or do they ramble around the page.
I am fortunate that I have a core group of writers and poets. I have known them between 3-10 years. All of them are powerful writers. They have the ability to go straight to the intent, the strengths and weaknesses of a poem. This is invaluable to any writer. Over the course of years, they have also helped me establish my own ‘vision’ on my poems, and to peel the onion of stinky verse. These three people are the ones who have helped establish my own poetical voice. But it takes work. I don’t come back to them with endless revisions of perhaps a few words. That is what this small group of poets did, and it really is pointless. I work at it until I have something new to submit for any consideration. Unfortunately, I find a lot of poetry groups, the smaller ones, who just want someone else to write their poems for them. They have no conviction in their own work, hence this behavior. They want validation without the hard work.
In dissecting this poem, I realized that I was going for a sense of motion: beyond meter, rhythm, etc. It was a visual expansion and contraction of words…
Active, powerful words: drumming, breaking, destroying, unexpected noise (obviously a loud one…) and then the soft words: un-damming, juiciness, waving, tender, will o’ wisp, etc. If this isn’t seen by readers, then they aren’t really reading the poem. This juxtaposition of opposites carries this very simple poem.
So. We have to evaluate the crits we seek with the crits we get. Do they clarify the poem, or do they do something else? And every word must be part of the package of the poem. It must ‘fit’ the statement, push it along, pull it together. The power of a poem is not just in the theme, it’s in the construction. And what words you pick better fulfill the intention.
I am glad I have this core group of Bill, Nick and CS. Without them, poetry can be a stroll through a minefield. And….there are some horrid ‘poets’ out there who don’t work at it at all.