Friday, April 25, 2014

DECONSTRUCTING A POEM...and Happy Last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month 2014!

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Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday!  
Today's host is Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.
Thank you, Tabatha!

Our Carmela is out to make trouble.  I swear...she's a full-blown cyclone blowing through Poetry Month!

(Actually, she's not.  I'm just playin' with you.  I've been on the look-out for metaphors all month on my website, and that was a metaphor, blowing by...the poem on my site today compares writing to a challenging walk...)

Carmela has posted (and reads aloud) two versions of one of my poems, and she suggested I talk about the process of writing and revising it.

So...here's the story behind HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD:

I was asked to help organize a poetry coffee house night for teens, and I wanted to teach them how to read aloud. Could I smush all the information into a poem, I wondered?  My teacher Myra Cohn Livingston always read poems aloud twice; I knew I wanted to include that in my instructions.

I've found nine versions of this poem; there may be more.  But don't panic--I won't make you read every draft!  Here's the very first version:

2/8/07  
READ ALOUD HOWS

Take a sip of water.

Read the title to your daughter. 

Pause.

Read the poet’s name.

Read the poem.

Read it once again

Take your time.

Say each word slowly

Let each word shine.

Take a breath and sigh.

Then think of how the poet put her hand to pen 

and why.
=========================
and here are the next several versions mashed together so you can see the ideas I tried and discarded...

HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD

[Sit down in a meadow with a friend.
Tell the poet’s name and the title—
Now begin.]

[Stand up in your kitchen with your friend.
Tell the poet’s name and the title—
Now begin.]

[Walk home from the bus stop with your friend.
Tell the poet’s name and the title—
Now begin.]

[Take a sip of tea.
Tell the poet’s name to your friend.]

[Take a sip of tea.
Read the poet’s name
and say its title deliciously
to me.]

[To begin,
say the title
and the poet’s name
with a small smile.]

[To begin,
announce the title of the poem
and the poet’s name.
Make sure to pronounce it clearly]

[To begin,
read the title of the poem
and the poet’s name.
Be clear.]

Now—[your job is to] completely disappear

Say [taste] its title
deliciously.

Tell the poet’s name to me.

[Tell the poet’s name to me.
Taste her title deliciously.]

Pause. 

[Be sure you’re heard
so I can savour every word.]

Now:
   savour  [polish]
     every 
       word.

Let 
  each
    shine.

Then—read it one more time.

Next, take a breath
and sigh.

Then think about the poet 
at her desk
late at night
picking up her pen to write—

and why.
*   *   *   *   *   
 And here some of my moods as I write
and rewrite and write and rewrite (can you relate?):

...confused...

...determined...

...patient...

At some point on this journey, I read Marilyn Singer's prose,"How to Read a Poem Aloud"...and though it's a terrific list, it made my head spin, so I decided to stick with just the few points I'd been working with.

*   *   *   *   *  

And finally, here are the two versions Carmela posted (they've been floating around the internet, passing each other in the night, for years)...which do you like best?

            Version #1

            HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD

            First, read the title of the poem
            and the poet’s name.

            Be clear.

            Now completely
            disappear.

            Let each line
            shine.

            Then read it
            one more time.

            When the poem
            ends, sigh.

            Think about the poet at her desk,
            late at night, picking up her pen to write--

            and why.
                             
*   *   *   *   *
Version #2 (as published in Sylvia Vardell's book, 


HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD

            To begin,
            tell the poet’s name 
            and the title 
            to your friend.

            Savor every word—
            let 
                each 
                        line 
                              shine.

          Then—
          read it one more time.

          Now, take a breath—
          and sigh.

          Then think about the poet,
          at her desk,
          late at night,
          picking up her pen to write—

          and why.
                             © April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved. 

Do I like one version better than the other?  Depends on what day you catch me.  That's the trick in creating something, isn't it: sometimes I know, I just know when it's finished: there's that satisfying click of the lasts puzzle piece...
from morguefile.com

 But just as often, I just...get...(yawn) t i r e d...so...I stop.

And that, dear campers, is the story behind HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD!

Now, go outside and play.

posted with a glue gun by April Halprin Wayland.
(p.s: I've just been interviewed by author
and Seminar on Jewish Story organizer Barbara Krasner here.)

from mykidcraft.com

15 comments:

LInda Baie said...

It's great seeing all the versions, April. I like the final one best, because you put the 'friend' part back in, and love that you left that wonderful ending on both.

Buffy Silverman said...

I seem to be trailing Linda around the internet, and having the same reaction. So I'll just say ditto, and thanks for sharing all these versions!

Liz Steinglass said...

Thanks for sharing your drafts and your process. I like the last one too. I'm not sure how I feel about the disappear in the second to last one. But I do know for certain that I love the sigh and the why.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Oh,
thanks for sharing your creative process, April!
I LOVE when a writer gives me access to his/her mind/heart.
I vote for #2, because the poem is being shared with another.
I love your Fib too, JA. :)

BJ Lee said...

I love this, April. It's so hard to read a poem slowly and I despair of every learning how. But I shall press on and remember your instructions!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Darling Linda, Buffy, Liz, BJ and Esther! Thanks for hiking my brain's trail with this one...sounds like #2 strikes a chord because the narrator is sharing it with a specific someone. That helps me a lot--thank you!

Carmela Martino said...

Wish I had a cyclone's energy today, April. I have so much to do! :-)
Thanks for sharing your process with us--very interesting. I still agree with Laura's comment on my last post, about liking the >>Be clear. Disappear.<< portion of the first version I recorded, but also the way you separated let / each / line / shine into different lines in the second version. And I LOVE that you stuck with basically the same ending throughout the process--it's a terrific ending.
I will add that when I read the final version aloud, the repetition of "Then" as the opening of two different stanzas felt unnecessary. I thought the first version worked well with only one "then," but maybe that's just me.

Ruth said...

I like the line about disappearing. But I also like the friend. I don't know - I like them both. It's so fun to see your process!

Violet N. said...

That was fun and interesting. I've been thinking about revising my own poems lately. This is a great how-to demonstration. I just love the last line, in all the versions.

Violet N.

Violet N. said...

That was fun and interesting. I've been thinking about revising my own poems lately. This is a great how-to demonstration. I just love the last line, in all the versions.

Violet N.

Violet N. said...

That was fun and interesting. I've been thinking about revising my own poems lately. This is a great how-to demonstration. I just love the last line, in all the versions.

Violet N.

Mary Lee said...

I like the first one, no friend necessary for me!

I like it so much, in fact, that I am going to make it an anchor chart for my classroom (with attribution, of course, of course)!

That last bit, where the reader thinks about the poet behind the words they just read aloud, is so powerful. Reading like a writer is so important. This will be just one more way I can weave that into my instruction! THANK YOU!

Jill said...

Fascinating to see the process, April!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carmela, thank you for your thorough comments about how it felt to read THIS poem aloud. Very interesting.

Ruth...perhaps I need one more version in which there is both a friend AND the reader disappears...hmm.

Violet and Jill, thank you. Sometimes demonstrating the process is just too long in one blog...I cut as much out as possible. Glad it was helpful!

Mary Lee--wow! I'm very pleased that you're going to use this in class--YAY!!!!!! (big smile)

Myra Garces Bacsal said...

Oh wow, dear April - I love how the entire poem has evolved from the very beginning til its present form - it shows the tiny transformations that mean the world to a poet. I like the painstaking care you have put into each word. Beautiful! Now I know how to read a poem. :)