22 (first revision)

So I’ve decided to work on one of my old pieces on my blog. Reading Sound and Sense by Lawrence Perrine has uncovered so many things about poetry that I learned back in college but had forgotten along the way. Most notably, I’ve realized I editorialize my work too much. I always have a line that explains the damned thing, which is actually quite unpoetic. I have to restrain that impulse. I also have to focus on a tighter objective correlative — a central metaphor — and bring back the sensuality of my pieces. Pretty words don’t make a poem. Its appeal to the senses and the multiple meanings, connoted and denoted, that enriches a piece.

These are things I have to remember.

So for this exercise, I have chosen an old work of mine that I put out here called 22. It is a product of spontaneous writing last March of this year and I still know exactly who I’m talking about and what I’m trying to say.  So I began working on it. I looked for what it was exactly I wanted to say, what were the parts I wanted to keep, and bring it closer to what poetry really should be.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), it changed a lot. It changed a whole damned lot!

So this is the new version of 22. Click on the title to see the original work. This, by the way, is not the final version. It’s just where I’m bringing the piece now. Removing my editorializing and condensing the thought to only what is necessary.

***

22

You have entered your industrial age.
Black smoke empties out of your ear,
nose, mouth, tear ducts, and pores;
byproducts of your industry. It’s painful
to breathe around you but the machine must turn
and churn for it to create.

My factories have all closed down.
I work at home now
and on my own. I’m still creating
but I’m no longer interested in mass
production. Assembly lines are just another queue
and I’ve had enough of ticking clocks.

You’re still shiny and new. I want to keep you
that way. Preserve that out-of-the-box smell.
I want to polish your door knobs and see my own face
reflected back at me; dust the corners of every room
and underneath the machinery. It’s a dirty world
we’ve got here and your own grease stains
are the least of your worries.

I know. I’m all cracked and dressed in rust.
I’ve weathered inflations and revolutions.
I’m barely standing and I haven’t even seen it all.
But you’re just 22, you still have a chance to be
nothing at all like me.

***

It still needs work, of course. That ending is so weak. But I am much happier with the arrangement of thoughts and ideas. I’m not spelling out as much as I was in the original draft version. Secretly, this is also a sort of love poem (I’m giving away a bit more than I should) and I think that plays out more openly in the original draft. I’m taking it out in this version and will find ways to sneak it in on my third go at this piece.

I want to work on the line-cutting too. I love how certain lines, as an individual verse, sort of tells us what I really think or feel (the first line of the third stanza: “You’re still shiny and new. I want to keep you”). I want to have more lines like this but I can only work on it more fastidiously in future drafts when I’ve settled and finalized each verse.

Again, this needs a lot of work but I’m happy that it’s moving forward. I’m still spoon feeding the message in the end. I’m still editorializing but not at the same degree as I was in the first draft. So there’s progress.

I’m going to let this settle and then try again after a few weeks.

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