Sunday 13 May 2018

In my apron

Poppy field by van Gogh, 1890. Image credit

I will not let this snow cover
of violence deaden my world
into breathless radio silence.
I will not let sandpaper words,
the hard, wind-tossed hearts of vandals,
swamp out the daisies and poppies
when and where it’s spring. I’ll let drifts
of leaves fall wherever they want,
weave against this doorsill in autumn.
I’ll pluck huge bouquets of hope,
keep them massed in my apron
like secret talismans. From the red
wildfires of poppies I’ll pick them,
and from the red, dead leaf banks.
I’ll walk miles of cheerful wildflowers
and the sky’ll sew its own linings
overhead in gold and silvershine.
And the sharp-spiralled razor wires
won’t stop a single leaf. Or stop me
from holding the flaming bunches
in the crook of my torn elbows.


In praise of some violence

The concept of non-violence doesn't work everywhere. 

Strangely, I had the same discussion recently on two separate occasions, with two different writerly friends, one face to face and the other over email. The debate centred around 'pouring one's heart out' poetry - if it needs to follow rules of grammar or even rules of poetry. It's all about freedom and being raw, spontaneous, right?! Not much good making one grand poetic statement in wrong grammar and having people roll around laughing and/or stand there stupefied trying to figure out what it all means. Or a typo marring the exquisite retrousse nose of that metaphor no-one else in the history of poetry has dreamt up! No. Just no. It's the emotion that should be raw if that's what the poet wants, not the writing. No shortcuts possible. That's my view at any rate. What's yours?

Those chats got me thinking - I often say here and elsewhere that I want to 'write it as it comes' - cripes! Probably give the impression I don't think much of editing (reinforced by the wordcounts at my A-Z too)! No, on the contrary, I'm not an advocate of 'raw' writing anywhere (except maybe journal entries meant for the writer's eyes alone). Errors of any kind undermine the final effect. For the want of a nail the battle is lost. 

And poetry needs as much ruthless editing as prose, no mistake.  Is this line/word really necessary? No? Chop! Does the rhyme work? No? Change! Aargh, now this is no longer ten/fourteen/twenty lines - cross out the whole ghastly mess and start all over again! 

A violent pen is super-essential for producing an acceptable outcome.

Write it as it comes, by all means. But then put away, revisit, edit, edit, edit, and then, if it looks and smells okay still...go hit publish. 


  1. I do write it as it comes. The first time. After which pruning/red pencil violence comes into play.
    And how I loved this poem of yours. Yes, yes and yes. I WILL see the ugliness and will do my very best to carry an antidote.

    1. Yup, can't avoid the ugliness but the antidote is all around us too.

  2. Everything needs editing.
    But if it doesn't follow form or rhyming, it's fine by me.

    1. Fine by me too. So long there has been some care shown to get rid of typos and obvious grammar errors.

  3. Hari OM
    Yes, to edit is a must.
    Even nonsense
    Cut, slice,
    rewrite, dice.
    Okay, grammar
    rules then break,
    but when attended
    they are first…
    Yes, to edit is a must.

    Unless, of course, it's raw, like this.
    Let it lie. Hit. Or miss?
    YAM xx

    1. Definitely a hit! :)

      The only time I'd be okay with a miss in editing is in the comments - and even there most people check for typos and basic errors, don't they?

    2. - yes and I do... and STILL things get through!!! Part of the trouble with comments is that they are often made at speed and when one is supposed to be abed - and despite multiple checks, missing or transposed letters insist ... insist, I say!... on remaining there. Sigh... Yxx

    3. I hear you! The letters turn into gremlins the minute one blinks...

  4. Yes edit to make it work.

    Now, I'll go read your piece again.

    1. Editing is a never ending process...every time I reread an old piece I take out a word or two :) don't know if that works...

  5. huge bouquets of that line. Too much editing can remove the emotion. You don't want to strip a poem of its heart.

    but this poem did strike a spring hopeful, with underlying sad strength.

    1. Ya, true! it's always a balancing act.

      Glad you liked the poem.

  6. Hi Nila - I'm keeping it to read ... but loved the poem ... and will be so interested to read your 'chats' ... cheers Hilary

    1. Hi, glad you liked the poem, Hilary. They were interesting chats indeed :)

    2. Hi Nila - one can over-egg one's poem or article ... it's better to let the words flow, as long as there's some editing - but here you always give us words of wisdom and beautiful descriptive phrases ... so good to read your work and comments - cheers Hilary

    3. Over-egg is such a neat term! I like eggs added just right. Nothing over or under :D

      Seriously though, ungrammatical sentences put readers off imho. Everyone must take care of that of course, but especially the ones who, like me, write in a language which isn't their native tongue. Thanks for your comment here, made me start my day with a smile!

  7. As I read this post, I was mentally composing a comment that would state exactly what you said in your last paragraph. Nothing wrong with editing even spontaneous writings after the fact. In fact, it's essential.

    I enjoyed your writing "For the want of a nail the battle is lost." Thanks for giving your readers credit for knowing the entirety of that old quotation. It saved a lot of space. Almost as much as I've used up leaving this comment.

    1. Space, as you know, isn't a commodity that is at a premium here. Use as much as you want! :)

      It's probably only my generation that'd know the full quote...

  8. 'It's the emotion that should be raw if that's what the poet wants, not the writing.'
    I agree. Same with prose. There is a movement which claims grammar is dead and readers are happy with a good story, no matter if it's badly written. I find that a difficult concept to swallow. But in Australian schools, at least, grammar is being given scant attention as many young teachers have not studied it.

    Beautiful poetic voice as always, Nila. No problems with your grammar, LOL!


    1. 'There is a movement which claims grammar is dead and readers are happy with a good story, no matter if it's badly written.'

      That just drives me nuts!! :D

      As a reader I'd get totally distracted by the errors and give up on the book two pages in.

      But I get what you are saying - I see people around me who are not bothered about fundamental errors, they go on to publish w/o edits or even proof-reading properly. Present poetry publicly where verb subject agreement is nonexistent..

      On second thoughts, don't know if they are aware of anything called verb subject agreement even :)