Wednesday, 5 March 2008

A walk in the spring - the first revision

On 24th February 2008 (scroll down) Poet-in-Residence bravely published the first draft of 'Spring on Oak Hill'; based on rough notes in his poet's notebook. The idea being to revise and construct the final poem, before the eyes of the world. It is intended as an expose´ of P-i-R's thought processes - such as they are. And now is the time, the poem having cooled its heels for 10 days or so, to do the first revision. The following revision was done this morning in a busy hospital waiting room. Waiting for ideal conditions has no sense. One might wait forever and never get anything done.
On re-reading the poem the first thing P-i-R observed was that the title 'Spring on Oak Hill' was overstating the obvious. The title was shortened to the sharper 'Oak Hill'.
In the first verse some minor changes were made. P-i-R decided to keep the post-Hardy quality in there because the poem is going to be a journey through time as well as place, from the late 1930s up to the present day. The Hardyesque syntax provides a double-meaning for the word 'most' - a generous bonus! Style will change as the poem unfolds.
In the second verse again some minor changes. The verb 'litter' is introduced. This
suggests spring - and new birth - in connection with the burrowing moles as well as its more obvious meaning in the poem's context.
In the third verse the word 'comes' is inserted early on to create an echo later. The word 'rustling' is reduced to 'rustle' to create a half-rhyme with 'zephyr'. The echo and the half-rhyme serve to give the breeze some quality.
In the fourth verse the words 'And here's...' replace 'There's now...'. This moves the poem on more convincingly. The words 'and on the floor inspect a broken window' are removed and the words 'where lizards sleep under mossy stones' are brought in from a later verse which is to be deleted. The word 'anthems' is now brought in, in connection with birdsong. This points the way the poem is going to go. It's a stand-alone word.
The fifth verse is deleted except for the 'lizards' phrase which was moved, as we have seen, into the fourth verse.
The sixth verse is deleted completely.
The last verse has one minor change. This important concluding verse starts with the heroic male figure flying his standard atop the hill with his family round him and ends with the destruction of a house, albeit a snail's - that slow moving, slow thinking creature - and a look at military ruins and spent fireworks - the party is over! This is a satisfactory ending. It is pointless to continue the poem beyond this point.
The poem teaches us that changes have to be made if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past. But the poet, as we see, is not optimistic that this will happen.
This then is the second draft. Like the first draft, it must also cool its heels. In a week or two the final revision will be possible. And then P-i-R will consider the fate of the poem. To be or not to be, as it were.

Oak Hill

Between the bomb craters
the grass is flat to the ground and grey
and bursting through.
Between the grassy straws are furry cowbells -
like fluffy mice they are
most hairy to the touch. Nearby are
scrubby oak trees with pale brown leaves
and tiny spiders throwing lines
on rosehip tangles and old black berries.

Loamy molehills litter the corner of the field
- the moles have been busy
building hills for beetles
to trundle up and down - and
there on the wooded bank in winter's wreckage
of wood and fencepost I see
the violets. I stoop and inhale their perfume.

There comes the rustle
of the zephyr in the crabby oaks
- that tiny stream of sound like the wings
of a thousand butterflies. It comes and goes
in its intensity.

And here's a ruined shed with its roof caved-in
and the door gone. I look inside
at shadows on a limestone wall.
All around the unseen
birds gargle and twitter
their throaty chirps and warbles -
in trees and bushes
and somewhere hidden in the grass
where lizards sleep
under mossy stones.

On the top of the hill there's a man
stripped to the waist
flying a colourful kite for a girl and a woman
with a voice like a squeaky wheel. I crunch
a snail's abandoned shell underfoot as I come to the top,
to the smashed concrete of an old battery and the spent
fireworks of the New Year celebrations.

c)- Gwilym Williams 2008

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