Change it Up: Ways to Change a Poetry Collection and Why

So, I’m not much of a poet. My teacher at the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts summer program thought it was my thing, but really I had to develop better prose.

By college and into my adult years, I got better with short stories. The thing as writers just as with teaching, we have to take criticism. It’s not always comfortable. Right now with my papers, I’m happy with an A – because I have two young children, an internship, and other classes. If something flies by the wayside, I don’t really care. But, I received news of a possible consideration of my collection of poems. I am doing a lot of work to this collection called Fractured Snowflakes. I am stripping it of what I consider crap or what sounds like a younger version of myself as a writer. I need to take out any random rhyme and turn it more into the poems near the end of the collection, prose poems.

They tell the true story about my ex-husband, a little of my career as a journalist, journey through depression, an affair to remember, the breaking apart of a family, and becoming a new one.  The first poem in my collection is called Gray Jacket, and I wrote it in 2006. It originally looked like this in the first two verses:

Are you wearing

your gray jacket?

I am wearing mine.

The silk-thin,

cotton sleeves

cover me

from April’s wind.

I recall a March night

when my toes

turned red

in flip flops.

The wind kept blowing.

You,

in your gray jacket,

made your move.

Now:

Gray Jacket

Remember the night when we stood outside and looked at Canterbury Cathedral lit up with lights, and we could see the scaffolds surround the back where workers had done repairs earlier in the week before the last winter rain.

“I don’t want to come,” you had said, so I dragged you to the writers’ meeting inside that nineteen seventies,’ peach-tan building on the campus hill. “They’re writers just like you and me. They offer up the good and bad for every piece. We all stay friends and then go down for pop quiz night at the bar.”

I dragged you out of your smoke-infused state, in your gray jacket, so my friends could hear a piece of what I’d heard when I first met you in our novel class. On that March night, you wore the same orange and gray tie dye shirt, black boots with thick, black strings, and gray jacket. I had hoped you’d read a part of your novel about the Colorado inmate during his last days on death row. But, at least you went, and listened to me and the others.

“It wasn’t so bad,” you said when the meeting was through, and we looked at Canterbury Cathedral lit up with lights, wet black streets, and the old Norman walls the Nazi airplanes had used as guide points during their bombing raids. You shoved the tip of your boot in the grass. In Carolina flip flops, my toes turned red.

The wind kept blowing. You, in your gray jacket, made your move. In the darkness, your lips from under your hood met mine. I didn’t want you to stop. Ten o’clock, eleven, or midnight, who knew? We both had novels to read, classes to attend, and I was to pack for a trip to London with Mimi and Dad. You stopped and kissed my forehead. “I’m not going to tell you, ‘I love you’–” I laughed and said, “Well, no shit!” “You see, these British girls …” you drifted off. “I’m American.” “Okay, but, you’ve made my day.”

I pulled my gray jacket around me, and you called me your girlfriend. You even said I had you “whipped.” I had heard this before, I thought, just with a Southern accent.

Before you said goodbye, your gray sleeves wrapped around mine. We looked again at the cathedral at the center of town. “I’ve seen it all before, but the cathedral seems different now,” I said.

I will go through a few more edits, but never be afraid of change.

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