On a recent walk, I saw a squirrel dart across the path and run up into a tree. When I looked up through the bare branches, I could see his tail splayed wide – presumably to give him better balance – and was struck by how closely it resembled the catkins of the pussy willow.
I believe it was Paul Valery who said, “A poem is never finished only abandoned.” I tend to agree with this, though I think there are different reasons for moving on, and the abandoning can happen at different stages of the writing process.
Sometimes a piece can be seen as “good enough” and there’s no great temptation to return and tweak it, but sometimes you just don’t have the right words, the right information or the right perspective to complete a poem, so you put it to one side, knowing that it is still lacking.
Fifteen months ago I posted a work in progress here on the blog:
Tight as apple pips,
buds spiral around
a moss-supple stalk
when they will split
and shake free
It was posted as a work in progress as there were several things I was dissatisfied with, including the last line. Several people made (mostly positive) comments, but I still wasn’t convinced.
At the time, I thought the tightly-packed contents of the buds I had found were petals; now, though, I’ve decided it’s probable that I was describing pussy willow catkin buds.
So, should I change those ’tissue wings’ to ‘squirrel tails’?
If so, does “chrysalis” cease to be an appropriate title? How many more knock-on tweaks will be needed before the poem is ready to be abandoned again?