Monday, 16 May 2011

Drafting poetry

David Morley flagged this up earlier on Twitter, and it's absolutely fascinating. It's Jacob Polley's poem The Reader, draft by draft, or at least in umpteen alternative versions.

At StAnza recently, one of the highlights for me was Paul Farley's workshop in which he took us back through the drafts of his poem Treacle. I thought it was really a pretty brave thing to do - I think I'd die of shame if some of the drafts of most of my poems ever saw the light of day. It was actually quite reassuring to see that the simple hard graft of writing and revising again and again could be so effective, but also slightly terrifying in the way it highlighted that changing just one or two words could tip a poem in a completely new direction.


Roy said...

Thanks for flagging this up Matt. Really fascinating. I feel less alone now!


Caroline Gill said...

Yes, the moving image is like the result of a kind of scope into the poet's thought process.

I wonder, Matt, if you keep all your drafts filed away with finished poems? I love the (OUP) Collected Edward Thomas in which you can see amendments to the text, shown in the typescript.

Matt Merritt said...

I do keep all my old notebooks, in which pretty much every poem starts, but I don't keep the various drafts they go through on the PC. Paul Farley actually had boxes and boxes of printouts of every draft.

Steven Waling said...

De-daa de-daa de-daa de-daa - in any version it sounds crap.

Matt Merritt said...

So, why read it, Steven? I'd imagine that, like me, you have trouble finding enough time to read the poetry you like without wasting time on something that you pretty much know you're not going to engage with.

Sorry if that sounds snotty, but your comment just came across as a cheap shot. I think the process shown here would be interesting whoever wrote the poem.