Competing Drafts — “Sometime After the Anniversary of a Dog’s Death”

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I often call freshly posted poems drafts, which can bring up a certain digital laughter among readers/fellow poets.  I don’t mean to be falsely modest–but to emphasize my indecisiveness in writing/posting.  Sometimes I’ll go back into a freshly posted draft to repeatedly change it–other times (more often), I can hardly stand to look at something after it’s posted.  (I suffer a kind of backlash, I suppose, at having had the audacity to put something out in the world–it manifests itself as acute embarrassment.) 

One solution, of course, would be to just post less–hang on to something until I am absolutely sure it’s done.  But, to be honest, I get a huge amount of comfort and energy from moving ahead in my work, so I am selfish (or audacious) enough to put something out before it may be ready, hoping that the caveat of calling it a “draft,” will protect me on the embarrassment side. 

At any rate, here’s a poem/draft that I wrote last night, and re-wrote this morning, and I thought it might be interesting to post both, since it shows how difficult it can be to make decisions about these things.  (Please only bother to read if you are interested in these kinds of issues–)  I tend to think the original shorter one (posted first) may be better, but I also like this morning’s longer version.   Thoughts of others are welcome, as always–

 

Sometime After the Anniversary of A Dog’s Death
(Glad of the Deep Snow)

I always worried
that some animal
would dig you up,
knowing that I myself
was not a great digger,
though also an animal;

even knowing
that I’d dug deep enough
only my thighs
reached the earth’s surface
and that, later, I secured your top soil
with a host
of stones.

But how the heart is snagged
by loss, that barbed
catch-all–

Loss, you finder
of all we no longer can,
you keeper.

*********************

Sometime After the Anniversary of a Dog’s Death

I always worried
that some animal
would dig you up,
knowing that I myself, like you,
was not a great digger,
though also an animal;

yet knowing too
that I’d dug deep enough
only my thighs
reached the earth’s surface
and that I’d secured your top soil
with a host of stones;

still, glad
when the ground froze
and when even those stones
were buried; glad when the snow too
froze, and I was absolutely sure of your safety
from the claws of some harder-scrabbler–

but how the heart is snagged
by loss, that barbed
catch-all–

Loss, that finder
of all we no longer hold,
Loss, that keeper,
who does not care
how deep we dig,
how thick snow falls,
what freezes, what thaws–
*******************************

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12 Comments on “Competing Drafts — “Sometime After the Anniversary of a Dog’s Death””

  1. brian miller Says:

    I would not be afraid of posting draftish poems…it gives you feedback to make adjustments if people actually take the time to read it….

    the first one, I feel for you…we lost a cat a few years back and did a burial by the shed…and I worries that something might come along and dig it up…and that would tear the loss to the forefront again…losing a pet is like losing a family member…

    if I was to change anything, you change who you are addressing in the last stanza…or it seems to be…a change from addressing the pet, to addressing loss itself…I wonder if you could convey the same emotion, or more still addressing the pet…or making that more apparent…

  2. hedgewitch Says:

    Gah. I just lost a very long comment here, k (the one time I forget to copy it, of course)–I will briefly recap as best I can, that these are both eloquent, both to me substantially the same very fine, painfully full poem, with only as you have suggested, the question of whether the piece is improved by lengthening it or not–I feel that the added third stanza is very strong and very much adds to the mood and to the jist–the first ending I tend to prefer because of the direct address to loss, that personification, but if I had only read the second, I would have no issues at all with it.( I didn’t have a problem with the shift in what is being addressed, btw) Regardless, an exceptional poem that speaks deeply to the heart of love and grief.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. I like the direct address to loss too–I only changed it because I thought if I was making competing drafts, I might as well make the second more grammatically correct, in the sense of not having two second persons, so I thought I’d try that, but I agree that the direct address-and how I first thought of it–was better. The second is more narrative, which I tend to like, but sometimes I think I drag things on and one. k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      ps — and sorry for the stupid commenting thing–it’s gotten worse and worse–I think actually a combination of the two is probably best, but once I thought about posting both, almost as a kind of exercise, I thought I would just keep the differences. That is a very good thought re the third stanza but initial end. k.

      • hedgewitch Says:

        I think you have suffered from losing comments more than I have, k–but yes, annoying. Narrative is not a bad thing at all, but I just like the more direct feel of the first close-while the third stanza adds the frozen ground, which is a whole additional dimension. Personal taste. Hope it warms up for you soon.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Thanks. I agree with that — I meant narrative third I think but honestly can’t look at it! But thanks much for your frank and wise input. Thanks to all, actually. K.

        >

  3. Polly Says:

    I like the first shorter version as I feel it says all that needs to be said in that poem. Having said that, I’d like to see you develop the second part into a longer poem once you’ve given yourself more time to think about what you want to say about loss (given that it would be a separate poem).

    I always enjoy your work k. x

  4. claudia Says:

    i like the close in the second one… and sending hugs.. it’s tough to lose such a friend…


  5. Yes, thanks for the glimpse! Tried to reply earlier, but oh me, oh life… In short, I like the shorter lines of the first, the simplicity, the starkness of loss seems to come across vividly in the short lines, butni do like that final stanza in version two. But if you do choose the direct adress, again brevity might be best. Honored to be able to give an opinion. Whatever you do, it will be beautiful.


  6. It’s nice to see into your workshop. I like everything about the 1st version better, including the title, and don’t have a problem at all with the 2 second persons.

    A general note on revising: in my online travels I’ve often encountered the notion that it’s advisable to endlessly revise poems. I don’t think that’s good as a hard rule, I think one should do what the particular poem requires. I have worked for years on some but I’m happy to leave others just as I first put them down. There are few writers I admire as much as Borges, and he did not believe in extensive revisions. He said that if you don’t know the right word relatively quickly, then you just don’t know it. As far as grammar and style and other elements are concerned, it’s like practicing an instrument: you have a certain skill and knowledge level at any given time, and that’s it.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thank you, Mark. I have shifting views–I have certainly lost a lot of projects to extensive revision! Whole novels that I revised into submission–and I don’t mean the right kind of submission. But also things that I definitely made better. You are right that one has to have a feel for the piece. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. k.


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