Friday, January 10, 2014

An editing moment

Sometimes I like poems I write. Sometimes I am less than thrilled with them. Either way, they all get edited. Indeed, they all must be edited. Sometimes it is good to leave them for six months, then return. Other times one can see what needs changing in a matter of hours.

Here is a perfect example.

I like the poem I wrote called Writing About Tigers. I think it merged the dream world and the real world in some well-thought-out ways. I like the way it connected the process of writing with the process of thinking about tigers.

However...I think that "Writing Tigers" would have said more of what I really wanted to say by leaving no imaginative space between "Writing" and "tigers."

And that verse starting with "Now that we know" simply doesn't belong in this poem. It is from a different register and domain. It is from the domain of "Social Justice," which, much as I approve of it, is not what this poem is about. The words are flat and preachy. This is a poem about leaping and imagination, not about "Save the tigers," although of course the poems implies this as well. And that is another thing. The poem actually implies this stance well enough not to need these words.

Writing (about) tigers     Frannie Zellman                   Take out "about." It is neither necessary nor appropriate.

Not all tigers will have the same
ferociously pleased teeth
phased into a smile
or tail that goes into a spin
when it wags.
If you wish to write (about) tigers,
you must first leave your wishes
for tiger speed and tiger eyes
at the writing door.
Tigers sleep and they sit
and sometimes they even cock an eye
or two
at what scurries and slips and scrims
on the jungle floor.
If they don't all pounce and tiger walk
on their way to crunching dinner,
you must understand that their tiger fire
is simply on low steam
and will erupt quite emphatically later
when smaller animals present themselves
for closer inspection
and digestion.

And oh one more thing..
They don't all burn bright.

(Now that we know that no one should request    Take out. Not the right tone and too literal for here.
their coats for rugs,
We also know that they need trees and prey
and watering holes.)

So if you still wish to write tigers, remember:
 they will play
with your imaginings
and slip off into the trees
with chunks of your words
as long as their ears and as thick as their breath

Clutch, learn to bear their green stare
like the light you remember
when the power goes.
It will warm you
as you call them
in dreams
before you pounce.

Ah. Much better!

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