Drafting and drafting rhythms

Often times people who are new to writing metrical poetry are curious as to the process.  These are my notes as to the development of the metrical piece.  I am the first to admit that my understanding of writing formal verse is mechanistic as opposed to “natural.”  I am not someone who grasped what an iamb was, or how to recognize the stress within the syllables of the word “banana”.  I have the natural rhythm of a tone deaf bull elephant.  While I’ll go further into the details of the rules of

These are the first and second pages of my drafts for the April 12, 2014 NaPo poem, “The Garden”. I begin working with the rhythm on the 2nd attempt. I signify stress with underlining the syllable. The numbers underneath the underline are where I’m tracking the stresses on a line.

pg1 pg2

At some point, I felt comfortable enough that I wouldn’t “lose” my word choices that I moved to typing my draft on the computer.  This is about draft 8 or 9.  The work is shown below.  I literally break each of the words into syllables and go through first highlighting & CAPping the stressed syllables of multi-syllabic words.  Then I take a “look around” and proceed with indicating stress on verbs, nouns, then modifiers and pronouns.  Then I begin implementing “The Rule of 3” (3 stressed syllables in a row, demote the middle; 3 unstressed syllables in a row, promote the middle)

There are intimacies of the body
which only come with ten thousand days.
The mechanics can be as trite as saffron crocus,
but a moment arrives and your lover leans across
your softening body, touches you

with unexpected appetite.  They bloom
a black trillium when they take your left toe
into their mouth – that soft wetness a surprise
to a part of the body which knows only work
and occasional pain.  Or maybe they stroke

the back of your knee with their tongue.  Your scent – long gone
to the bite of pepper as your own roses withered
and dried at least five years ago – draws them
to sniff then take a tiny bite; their breath
alive on your skin. It is not a sin –

but time has furrowed you blind, not indifferent.
And the field  which surrounds you with each passing night
draws you into that furrow and you forget you sleep with a stranger; rather it is
the depth with which squill roots and spreads which brings
the sea of blue to a dry land.

There are in ti mac ies of the bod y

which on ly come with ten thou sand days.

The me chan ics can be as trite as SAF fron cro cus,

but a mo ment a rrives and your love r leans a cross

your soft en ing bod y,  touch es you 

with un ex PECT ed AP pe tite.  They Bloom

a black tril li um when they TAKE YOUR left toe

in to their mouth – that soft wet ness a sur prise

to a part of the bod y which knows on ly work

and oc ca sion al pain.  Or may be they stroke

the back of your knee with their tongue. Your scent – long gone

to the bite of pep per as your own ros es with ered

and dried at least five years a go–  draws them

to sniff then take a tin y bite, their breath

a live on your skin.  It is not a sin

that time has fur rowed you blind not in dif fer ent

to the field  and you for gEt that each night you sleep

with a strang er; rath er it is the depth with which squill

roots and spreads which brings

the sea of blue to a dry land.

The last stanza would not conform to what came before.  I actually wasn’t happy with l5 of each of the stanzas being only 4 beats and I couldn’t get a fifth beat up onto that l5 of s1, so I scrapped this format and began considering words to cut, like “saffron” on l3.  This is how I scan the finished work.

There / are in / ti mac / ies of / the bod (y)

which on / ly come /with ten thou / sand days. / The me chan (ics)

can be /as trite /as cro / cus, but / a mo  (ment)

a rrives / and your love/ r leans / a cross your soft / en ing

bod  y,  /and touch /es you  /with AP /pe tite.

They Bloom  / black tril / li um / when they TAKE /your  toe

 in to / their mouth /- that soft wet / ness a / sur prise

to a part /of the bod /y which knows on / ly work

and oc ca/  sion al pain.  / Or may / be they stroke  / the back

of your knee / with their tongue E / ven though / your scent

has long gone / to the bite / of pep / per – your / own ros (es)

with ered / and dried / at least / five years / a go

still it draws / them to sniff / then take / a tin / y bite,

their breath / a live / on your skin.  / It is not / a sin

that time / has fur / rowed you blind / to the field  / and you

for gEt / that each night / you sleep / with a strang / er; rath (er)

it is / the depth / with which squill roots / and spreads

which brings / the sea / of blue / to a dry land.

Which works out like this:

There / are in / ti mac / ies of / the bod (y)
lame foot iamb (missing leading light beat) / iamb / iamb / iamb / hyper-syllabic iamb

which on / ly come /with ten thou / sand days. / The me chan (ics)
iamb / iamb/ anapest / iamb / anapest – hypersyllabic

can be /as trite /as cro / cus, but / a mo  (ment)
iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb (because of Rule of Three – promotion of “but”) / iamb – hypersyllabic

a rrives / and your love/ r leans / a cross / your soft  en ing
iamb / anapest / iamb / iamb / hypersyllabic iamb

bod  y,  /and touch /es you  /with AP /pe tite.
trochee / iamb / iamb/ iamb / iamb

They Bloom  / black tril / li um / when they TAKE /your  toe
iamb / iamb / iamb / anapest / iamb

 in to / their mouth /- that soft wet / ness a / sur prise
trochee / iamb / anapest / iamb (promotion of ‘a’ because of Rule of Three / iamb

to a part /of the bod /y which knows on / ly work
anapest / anapest / double iamb / iamb

and oc ca/  sion al pain.  / Or may / be they stroke  / the back
anapest / anapest / iamb / anapest / iamb

of your knee / with their tongue E / ven though / your scent
anapest / double iamb / iamb / iamb

has long gone / to the bite / of pep / per – your / own ros (es)
anapest / anapest / iamb / iamb /  hyper-syllabic iamb

with ered / and dried / at least / five years / a go
trochee / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb

still it draws / them to sniff / then take / a tin / y bite,
anapest / anapest / iamb / iamb / iamb

their breath / a live / on your skin.  / It is not / a sin
iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb /

that time / has fur / rowed you blind / to the field  / and you
iamb / iamb / anapest / anapest / iamb

for gEt / that each night / you sleep / with a strang / er; rath (er)
iamb / anapest / iamb / anapest / hyper-syllabic iamb

it is / the depth / with which squill roots / and spreads
iamb / iamb / double iamb/ iamb

which brings / the sea / of blue / to a dry land.
iamb / iamb/ iamb / double iamb

So, all this technical work drove my word choices, line breaks, and then which imagery went where.  The final work looks like this:
The Garden

There are intimacies of the body
which only come with ten thousand days. The mechanics
can be as trite as crocus, but a moment
arrives and your lover leans across your softening
body, and touches you with appetite.
They bloom black trillium when they take your toe
into their mouth – that soft wetness a surprise
to a part of your body which knows only work
or occasional pain.  Then maybe they stroke the back
of your knee with their tongue even though your scent
has long gone to the bite of pepper – your own roses
withered and dried at least five years ago –
still it draws them to sniff then take a tiny nip;
their breath is alive on your skin. It is not a sin
that time has furrowed you blind to the field and you
forget that each night you sleep with a stranger; rather
it is the depth with which squill roots and spreads
which brings the sea of blue to a dry land.

Other Questions, Other Answers

I was working with the idea of trying to communicate gender neutrality in this piece.  For this year’s NaPo I’m writing 30 days worth of directly erotic work.  One of the things I want to address during the thirty days is the variety of ways in which humans can worship the body of other humans – the variety of sexual love that there is.
I specifically did not want there to be a M/F, M/M, F/F, he/she/it pronoun usage.  So, I chose to use the pronoun “they”, not to indicate polyamory, but to indicate a non-gender specific singular pronoun.  In the reading I did, this is controversial, but Chicago Style apparently is sitting back to watch how it all turns out.  I particularly disliked the s/he “pronoun” in this context, they/their seemed less intrusive, less self-conscious.

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