A Poem is Never Finished…

…not, at least, until Faber have printed your collected works.

If you read the poem in the previous post, in the 30 minutes after I posted it, you will have seen the line:

Encourages green and gold across the downs

Yet ever since I wrote Spring Song, I’ve felt vaguely disappointed with the word Encourages. It felt weak, and it added an unwanted syllable to the line. But then I moved on, wrote some new things, and kind of forgot about this “problem”. However, whenever I saw the poem again, I would worry, and then worry that I was worrying too much – after all, other people had read the poem in various draft states, and in its completed state, and had never complained about that line.

But this evening, reading the poem a few times while I edited the photos around it, I could stand it no longer. My original thought, two years ago, was that the sun indeed encouraged nature, revivified it, gave life to it, forced energy through the green fuse, and so on, and hence remade the spring colours  So I began to think about synonyms for encourage, and check out thesauruses. Every word I looked at or thought about that had that burgeoning, fecundity vibe just didn’t seem right.

Instead, I went slantwise (like some of the rhymes) and decided to approach the problem from a different angle. What else, I thought, was the sun doing? After the mist had been burned away, the sun would illuminate the hills, paint them, drip colour on them… The idea of painting colours felt better to me — more in tune with what I could see in my mind as the mist melted. Still, painting, painted, paint also seemed weak, and perhaps too obvious. Eventually, I alighted on brush and brushing, thinking of the sun’s rays as the hairs of a paintbrush. The phrase Then brushing also had the advantage of being exactly three syllables – exactly what I needed to return the line to an iambic pentameter.

I will, though, undoubtedly edit them all, all my poems, all my lines, again, and again. A poem is never finished.


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