It’s there in the air between them.
As hands sketch fragmented curves,
fingertips graze its surface.
They worry it with words,
map points along the borders.
Their tongues taste the edges
of possibility until they find its shape
in the space where their lips meet.
I came across an earlier draft of the above in a stack of papers I was about to throw away, but I can’t find any trace of it on my computer. I don’t think I’d deliberately discarded it, but it definitely needed work.
There’s still a way to go, but it’s given me something to think – and write – about.
Elsewhere, I was reminded this week that “lightness of touch and simplicity” are among the virtues of most of the best poems.
With the clarity granted by time, I can see that there was no “lightness” of any kind in the earlier version: it was an inappropriately dense block of alliteration and wordplay, where “fingertips fumble” and “teeth nip and nick and nibble”.
A fellow workshop participant once said he needed to go on a diet after reading one particularly purple piece I’d written. He managed to make it sound like a compliment. I wish now that he’d said it a bit more negatively, as I might have realised sooner what a bad habit this over-indulgence in sound and wordplay can be.
I find it tempting to layer on words when they are all in the same area of sound and sense: not knowing which is the best choice, I kid myself that more is better and that I am building up something worthwhile. In fact, the effect is overdone and cloying.
But it’s not just the words, it’s also the way they are placed on the paper. I don’t want to fall into the trap of suggesting that adding line breaks and random blank lines automatically turns any piece of writing into a poem, but I do think that breaking up the single block has added some very needed space to this piece.
The situation described is hesitant and tentative, full of false starts and uncertainty. By adding breaks, I hope I have indicated to the reader that, short as the piece may be, they need to take time over it, not simply take a deep breath and rush through it without stopping.
I still think it needs work, and I don’t think it will ever amount to anything very substantial. But it’s certainly better than it was and it has helped me think about one of my writing faults.