I’m a bit of a serial reviser when it comes to my poems. More often than not, though, the tweaks past a certain point of the draft process leave the poem relatively recognizable as a slightly edited version of that first solid draft. That said, I’ve been revisiting a poem I originally started working on almost 4 years ago, in April 2011. While I’d been fiddling about with line breaks and punctuation in the intervening few years, over the last month or so the revision process took a more substantial turn.
The first draft of the then ‘new poem’ I posted in April 2011 looked like this:
THE HARBOUR SLEEPS THESE SHORES
This late, wet winter’s near dusk, from
the Dartmouth side of the harbour, the bridge
is not some cocktail party’s belched boast,
is not gin-fuelled and all red-cheeked and
breathless. No, it is instead that sly killing
bit of mid-day office gossip. A near-rote
second cup of what’s barely-morning-anymore’s
insinuation; one that everyone’s sure they’ve heard
(Once more! Oh, tell me anyway!), but no one
can quite articulate or source.
You know: if eyes had tips like tongues,
it could lie right there, the bridge. Lie
on, it might. Or so they’d have us believe.
After a fair bit of re-writing, here’s the January 2015, somewhat updated, version (abridged title and all):
Distant objects please, because, in the first place, they imply an idea
of space and magnitude and because not being obtruded too close upon
the eye, we clothe them with the indistinct and airy colours of fancy.
– William Hazlitt
this late, wet winter’s near-dusk,
from the dartmouth side of the harbour, the bridge isn’t
some cocktail party’s belched boast; it’s not
gin-fuelled and all red-cheeked and breathless. no.
it is, instead, a tongue almost held; a con’s hovering
steely-squint guile; an old rumour that’d just disappeared
for a while – that once-riveting bit of now chary gossip
(the mid-day, office-y stuff), let slip unintended,
as end-of-break cups slosh and spill gritty remains
in the sink. we drink in, and get drunk on,
this logic at play; understand it as vague – a sort of suspension –
as eyes do us no favours from this spot on the shore.
but we still can’t ignore how this engineered bulk’s intermittency acts
as a proxy for falsehood at times and, what’s more,
often seems a tad bored with itself, too relaxed.
given the view, we can’t help but conclude
it’s akin to some salacious quip we’re quite sure we’ve all heard
but not one of us dares to source or repeat. its concrete and iron?
like envy, in theory: a hulking green monster, an amorphous abstraction
discretely strobe-surging in failing light’s fog. we blink;
our minds jog. and in the end what we’re left with,
we think, is just this: that which day’s faltering grasp on the view
would have us believe, hands arcing and arcing, again. and again.
the exact gist of those recurring waves hard to fathom.
I think this newer draft is still exploring much the same idea that the original 2011 poem was, but this feels more robust to me. More complete. I hope you might enjoy it, if nothing more as a look at how poems sometimes grow and change.