I took a poem about jackdaws and rooks gathering on the ridge opposite our house (which is an amazing sight and quite deafening) which started when I looked at St. Thomas Aquinas's ideas about beauty. So with my head full of galleries and art etc. I stepped out of the car and there was this amazing confluence of birds, like a loose swarm of bees, covering the trees along the ridge. I started to look at the 38 lines I had and read it out loud. This is how I edit:
- I highlight bits I really like the sound of.
- I mark up stresses where the rhythm is interesting.
- I look at interesting ideas and look for words that describe them
- I find odd words that just make their way in like translating it to another language and back again.
- I read it out aloud again and again.
- Sometimes I sing the words along to a song or make up a new tune.
The final product? A poem I like, that I'm happy with. (Happyish. Who is ever really finished with a poem?) It's nineteen bloody lines. I'm going to be a long way short of my target at this rate.
This is the present draft:
High on the hill; on the ridge, stands an oak
buffeted crabwise, leaning; the gathering tree.
The sorcerer's tree. Rusty with the first touch of frost,
leaves tattered by September gales, the winds signalling
the orchard daws and the graveyard daws.
The pair in our chimney begin scherzando cries,
approaching birds reply from the east. Inky rags
that drop to the river below, brush it with wingtip fingers,
reflected off skyward, on a thermal of boisterous song,
which tangles like threads in the sorcerer's tree.
As dozens and hundreds arrive they dislodge
the resident crows, who stretch for textures of flight;
the uplift that pins them to the darkening sky.
Rookeries empty in Mortehoe and Lee,
and gather in grey-faced assemblies to wait
and curve the old boughs of the sorcerer's oak.
Hundreds become thousands, air stiffened with calls.
Some invisible consensus unpegs a sheet of birds
and snatches it, chanting, to the Atlantic shore.
It doesn't have a title yet and I'm already snip, snipping away at it. It will be a single line in no time.