Poetry essay: Remodeling a poem

Sometimes as a poet, you might want to remodel a poem.  Maybe you wrote a poem, but think it could be better.  Maybe you wrote a poem, but your view on the subject has changed.  Maybe you want to write a poem, and are having trouble thinking of ideas, so you look back at an old poem you wrote for inspiration.  Whatever the situation, remodeling a poem can be an interesting exercise.  It can lead you to a poem that is very different from what you started with.

For this essay, the poem from the post Artwork to inspire poetry: Shelter will be used to illustrate how a poem can be remodeled.  The original poem was:

all the time
he kept wondering
if civilization
were just over
the next hill

In the poem, a person is lost in the wilderness.  They have been lost for some time and have built a shelter.  They have doubts about their situation though.  The wonder if in some place nearby, that they can’t see, there could be civilization.  They wonder this from a number of perspectives.  They wonder if they should keep moving rather than building a shelter.  They wonder if they might be rescued soon.  They also are self-conscious in that they wonder if they will be judged by people for their actions given that civilization may be very close by.

In starting to remodel the poem, one thing that could be changed is how long the person wondered.  In the original poem, the person wondered all the time.  A change could be made to say that the person only wondered after a certain point.  The first line could say some like, “after so many days”.  This implies that the person didn’t initially have doubt, but that doubt developed over time.

With this change, as can happen with remodeling, another change would have to be made.  This is in the second line.  In the original poem, the first two lines express the same idea.  Since the first line is changed, the second would have to be as well.  It might be rewritten as, “he wondered”.

Another change in the poem, might be the gender of the character.  In the original poem the person is male.  In the new poem, the person could be female.  In this case, “he” of the second line, could be changed to “she”.

The original poem was based off of the idea of a shelter.  That led to the notion of civilization in the poem.  As part of remodeling though, a different idea could be looked at.

The basic idea of the poem is that of wondering if something good might be nearby but unseen in some way.  That idea could be applied to other things.

Rather than looking at the idea of being lost and wanting civilization, something else could be looked at.  An example might be a person who is looking for a new job.  They might wonder if a new job was near in some sense.  This could be written in the poem as, “if a new job”.

In the original poem, civilization was described as potentially being “just over/ the next hill”.  The new job, could be describe as, “just in/ the next email”.  The idea is that as the person is trying to make ends meet, and looking for a job, they might wonder if their next job offer will be in the next email they receive.

After the changes, the poem so far becomes:

after so many days
she wondered
if a new job
were just in
the next email

While this expresses the idea, it does lose some of the depth of the original poem.  In the original poem, there was an idea of survival and civilization.  In this poem, depth could be added with a few small changes.

First, the first line could be rewritten as “after so much time”.  This adds more significance than focusing on days.

Second, instead of referring to “a new job” a more profound description could be used.  Something like, “if something new”.  This is more ambiguous, but adds depth, and still contains the same idea.

Third, rather than describing something as “in” it could be described as arriving.  The line “were just in” could be “would soon arrive”.

Fourth, instead of saying “email”, the poem could talk about a “message”.  A message is a deeper sounding idea than an email.

Fifth, instead of describing the message as arriving “next”, it could be described as something that is “awaited”.

With these changes, the poem becomes:

after so much time
she wondered
if something new
would soon arrive
in an awaited message

Again, the original poem was:

all the time
he kept wondering
if civilization
were just over
the next hill

The new poem has depth, has some ambiguity, and expresses an idea.  It follows the basic idea of the original poem, but shows something new.

This poem remodel was an example.  It shows how the process can go.  A poet can go line by line and examine words and ideas as they work to change the poem.  As they do, it’s important that the overall poem be kept in mind so that it continues to make sense.

Remodeling a poem can be a good learning exercise because the action of it causes a poet to think about their writing and what they want to say.  It can also be a good way to come up with a new variation on a poem because a poet might not know where the remodel will lead when they start the process (as was the case with this poem remodel).

As an exercise, find a poem you’ve written and try to remodel it.  Start with a short poem and work through process, maybe taking notes as you go.  You might post both poems on social media and see what people think of the changes.

Poem: Help save the trees

It’s February,
you know what that means,
right?

It’s that unfortunate time of year,
when people across the land,
feel a compulsion,
to lop the tops,
off their crepe myrtle trees.

Look around.

You should be seeing it.

Tree
after tree
with their tops cut off.

Why?

Why?

There is no reason for this.

It is wrong.

Wrong.

A full grown crepe myrtle tree
with flowers blooming
and its characteristic bark peeling
is a beautiful thing.

A crepe myrtle tree
with its top lopped off
is an objective of sadness and despair.

If you lop your trees,
ask yourself why.

Does it help the trees?

Does it look nice?

Do you do this to other trees you have?

Did you see your neighbors do it and so you did it too?

There is no good reason for this.

None.

Whatever reason you might have,
it is misguided.

If you think the tree is too big,
and so you lop it to make it smaller,
why not transplant it once and for all,
and plant a smaller tree?

If you think lopping a tree,
means it makes more flowers,
ask yourself,
wouldn’t a full grown tree,
have more flowers,
than a lopped one?

If you have a crepe myrtle tree,
and you lop it,
it’s not too late to change.

You can change.

You can resolve to never lop again.

If you know someone,
who lops their trees,
ask them why they do it.
Start a conversation,
and help show them the right way.

Please,
if you believe,
lopping crepe myrtle trees,
is wrong,
tell your friends,
on social media,
and in person,
to change how they treat,
their crepe myrtle trees.

Show them pictures
of what full grown trees
can look like.

Get them to think
about their pruning practices.

It’s a small thing,
you can do,
to make the world,
a little better.

Poetry essay: How you can try to get a person to change their mind about poetry

Sometimes you might encounter someone who doesn’t like poetry.  They might even speak badly of it.

In these situations, although you would never want to argue with someone, you might feel the need to try to get the person to change their mind about poetry.  You might like poetry and feel the person doesn’t really understand it.  You might think that if you can explain something about poetry that the person might come to appreciate it.

If you think this could be so, here are ten ideas for how you can try to get a person to change their mind about poetry.

First, you could point out that the person might actually like some kinds of poetry.  For example, you could tell them a funny limerick and see if they laugh.  If they do, you could point out that the just enjoyed a poem.

You could also point out poetry on greeting cards.  Maybe the person liked some they have seen.

Additionally, you could point out that songs and poems have a lot in common.  You could read them some song lyrics from songs they like and show how they resemble poetry.

Lastly, you could point out poems from advertising.  Sometimes advertising has rhyming jingles and similar things and you could point out that these are poetry if the person likes or remembers some of them.

Second, you could point out to the person that not all poetry is the same.  While they may not like some styles of poetry, there are numerous others.  You could show them different kinds of poetry and see if there is a style they like.

Third, you could ask the person what they don’t like about poetry.  They might say things like, “It doesn’t make any sense” or “It is silly” or “It is just a bunch of flowery words”.  Whatever they say, you could find poetry that isn’t like that and introduce the person to it.

Fourth, you could focus on poetry that is more mainstream.  Find poets people have heard of even if they don’t think they like poetry.  Poems from these poets might be more appealing to the person.

Fifth, you could find poetry that relates to something the person has experienced.  For example, if the person had a disease, you could show them poetry by other people who had the disease.  The connection might help them to appreciate it.

Sixth, a person might not like poetry because they don’t see it as being written by people like them.  For example, if the person is conservative, realistic, and masculine, they might feel that poetry is written by liberal, intellectual, feminists.  Whatever the disparity, you can find poets that resemble the person.  You can show them that people like them do write poetry.

Seventh, you could try to find poetry about topics the person likes.  If the person likes golf, for example, you could find poetry about that.  If the person likes cars, you could find poetry about that.  Whatever the interest is, if you can find poetry related to it, the person might be more likely to enjoy it.

Eighth, you could remind the person that reading poetry and liking it doesn’t necessarily change the person.  You could remind them that it doesn’t affect their identity.

Ninth, sometimes people who don’t like poetry associate it with certain emotions.  They might think, for example, that most poetry is serious and somber.  If that is the case, you can find poetry that is the opposite of their perception, that they might enjoy more.

Tenth, you could remind the person that it is all right if they don’t like all poetry.  You could remind them that not all poetry is for all people and that is okay if they don’t like certain kinds.  You could remind them that there is no “poetry authority” judging them for what they read.  You could remind them that the poetry they happen to like doesn’t have to conform to some perception they have of what poetry is.

Poetry essay: Does the meaning of a poem change over time?

If you’ve ever read a poem that was written years ago you may have wondered about this question.  Are you seeing the poem in the same way as readers did when it was written?  Are you seeing the poem the same as the author intended?  Does the meaning of a poem change over time?

From one perspective, the answer to this question is no.  There is the idea that when a poet writes a poem they impart meaning to it.  There is meaning in the symbolism, the word choice, and the form.

In some sense, this meaning is fixed.  The poem means what the poet wanted it to mean.  Whether people later (or even at the time) interpret it differently doesn’t change that.  The original meaning is still there.

In another sense though, it could be argued that the meaning of a poem does change over time.  There is the idea that a poem changes with history, the audience, and with language.

Think about a poem about a current event.  When the poem was written, the event was current.  Readers would see the poem from the perspective of the present.  In the future though, readers have the perspective of looking back on the past.  They, in some sense, know what happens later and so have a different perspective on what happened before.

Think about reading a poem about some event in the 1960s.  An example might be an election taking place.  If you look up the election, and know who won, the poem might seem different to you than it would to a person who was reading it at the time who didn’t know who was going to win.

In addition to this idea, readers of poems can change.  Society can change.  Attitudes and preferences can change.  A poem written in the past might seem very different to a present audience and by extension would seem different to a future one.

Think about gender roles in history.  These can change over time.  A poem portraying the status of a woman in the 1800s might seem very different to today’s audience.  A poem that was meant to be very progressive at the time, might seem just the opposite to someone reading it today.

In addition to this, language can change.  Over time people don’t use the same words and they might not use the words they use in the same way.  Readers of poems might get a very different meaning if they understand the language differently.

Think about dialing a phone.  In the past, if used a rotary telephone, you actually dialed a number.  You physically turned a dial to input each number.  Now the word simply means to input a number to make a phone call.

If a person was reading a poem from the past, and it talked about the physical act of dialing a phone and related it to other things, the meaning might not be clear to them if they don’t understand the word in the same way.

There are implications to these ideas.

First, if you are reading a poem from the past, you might be concerned that you aren’t getting from it what was intended.  You might feel you are missing something or are seeing it in the wrong way.  This same concern applies to any poetry interpretation, whether a poem from the past or a new one.

Second, if you are writing poetry, you might wonder how readers of your work will perceive it over time.  Will they see the same things you intended?  Will history change the tone of your work?  Will they read the words in the same way?

This might be a concern if you want your work to be lasting.  You might worry that time will change your work.

If you are concerned about the first issue, you might try to place poems in context.  Learn about the author and the time period of the poem.  Read their other work.  This can help you place the poem in perspective.

If are worried about the second issue, you could first try to write poetry that is clearer in meaning.  Leaving out the issue of obscurity will help the meaning of the poem get through.  You could also consider writing explanations of some your poems, as M. Sakran does for some poems on this blog.  That way readers would know your meaning even after time changes.

Does the meaning of a poem change over time?

In some sense the answer is both yes and no.  A poem has a fixed meaning, but the meaning that people get from it can change.  As a reader and a writer of poetry you should consider this.  It can help you try to see poems from the past from the intended perspective, and it can help you to impart more lasting meaning to your work.

Poem: tears of regret

There’s a moment,
where you think someone may die,
and as you sit by their bed,
holding their hand,
you are filled with regret.

You regret the time,
you didn’t spend with them.

You regret the anger,
that you showed them.

You regret all the meaningless things,
that you put before them.

In that moment,
as you watch them breathe,
and pray that it will not stop,
the days and years pass by in your mind,
and all those moments that should not have been,
are reminded to you.

You say kind words,
and express your love,
and say from within your depth,
that you are sorry.

In this moment,
whatever happens,
learn from this.

Learn from the regret,
learn from the sorrow,
learn from all that you believe you lost.

In time,
either good or bad,
the time will pass,
and when it does,
do not forget.

Do not forget,
the feelings you had.

Do not forget,
the sorrow you felt.

Do not forget,
your regret.

Do not,
let things,
become normal again.

Do not,
let things,
be as they were.

Although the effort may strain,
and the logic may strain,
and the petty things may strain,
do not forget.

The day will come,
again,
when you sit by a bed,
and hold a hand,
and all those words,
and all those logics,
of why you should not have changed,
will shatter like glass.

Don’t let that happen.

Don’t be in that place.

Learn from the tears,
and go a new path,
so that by the bed,
in the future,
while there may be tears of sorrow,
there will not be,
tears of regret.

Poem with an explanation: Home

Home,
peacefulness,
serenity,
what is good seems more,
what is bad seems less

the mundane grows flowers,
the tree,
the wall,
the difference in the sky

all things seem different,
like a lens was changed

the colors are new,
and all is better.

 

This poem is about the perspective of someone who has been away from home for some time.  They were away in an unpleasant situation.  It might have been a long arduous trip, for example.  The person is relieved and happy to be at home.

At the start of the poem, the person is standing in familiar surroundings.  They are home.  They feel a sense of peacefulness and serenity after what they have been through.  They have a new perspective.  The good things at home seem better, and the bad things seem less bad.

The mundane things in their life at home seem to grow flowers and grow better.  They notice with fondness ordinary things like a tree and a wall.  Because of what they have been through and their changed perspective, even the sky looks different.

All things seem different to them, like they are looking through a new lens and can now see things as they really are.

Things look so different that colors seem new.  All seems better to them.

Poem with an explanation: a cloth of resolve

Laying with motion,
in the pain,
of past mistakes,
thinking of resolve,
but then interwoven,
a doubtful thread,
as light flashes,
and moths fly,
eating the tapestry,
the pain flows,
the light dims,
the moths fly,
and blankets cover.

This poem is about resolving to change.

The poem goes through different stages.  The first stage, lines 1 -3, shows the person in the poem experiencing some sort of negativity from the way they have been.  An example might be, a person having a hangover after being drunk.

In the second stage, line 4, the person, in their pain, has a feeling of wanting to resolve.  The person is experiencing something they feel to be so negative, that they have a sense of wanting to change their life.  Continuing the example, this might be a moment where a person with a hangover is slumped over a toilet.  The person feels so bad, both physically and emotionally, that they are overcome with a feeling of not wanting this to happen again.

In the third stage, lines 5 – 9, the person has a moment of doubt.  They think back to previous times in their life when they resolved to do something, and realize that at those times, the resolve didn’t last.  They have a sense that when their physical condition improves, that they will rationalize their behavior and not change their ways.  They realize the error of this, but realize it as a reality.

In the fourth stage, lines 10 – 13, the person is brought back to reality by a sense of pain.  In the example, the person might suddenly experience a very negative physical feeling from the hangover.  This feeling is so strong, that it pushes away the doubt they have, and they resolve to resolve.

The main imagery in the poem was that of a piece of cloth.  The person’s resolve is described indirectly as cloth.  When the person has their feelings of doubt it is like a noticeable thread was woven into it.  When the person has a flashback, that light is described as something that attracts the moths of doubt.  The moths come and eat the cloth.  When the person has a new pain though, it dims the light of their flashback, they are brought back to reality, and the moths of doubt fly away.  When this happens, the cloth is intact, and the person can cover with it like blankets, and resolve to resolve.

The poem does have form.  Each line is three words long.  This was intentional and did affect the words of the poem.  For example, the line “a doubtful thread”, was originally, “a thread of doubt”.  It was changed for the form.  Hopefully the form choice was not initially noticeable and helped improve the poem by changing some of the expressions.

P.S.  Did you know that M. Sakran has an eBook of poems with explanations?  It is true.  It is called Understanding: poems with explanations.  If you liked this poem with an explanation, you might consider purchasing a copy of the book.  You can learn more about the book here: Understanding: poems with explanations.

Artwork to inspire poetry: Change

Change

This artwork was done in a few phases.  First, a charcoal drawing was made.  That drawing was scanned and then it was computer altered.  Primarily, it was made darker, with more contrast, less highlights and more shadows.  Then the image was computer altered again to give the affect that is seen.

This image relates to the idea of fifty, in that there was, in the original drawing, fifty things in the image.  There were 3 vines, 9 flowers, 19 leaves and 19 berries.  3 + 9 + 19 + 19 = 50.  Through alteration though, some of the items can no longer be clearly seen.  This idea can be used in poetry.

A poem could be written where a change happens.  Something goes from one state to another, and after the change, the original state is no longer recognizable.  An example might be a poem about a child becoming an adult.  Another example, drawn from the image, might be a flower becoming a berry.

This idea could be used for many poems.