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26 OCTOBER 2016


A poem being composed for Breathing These Words, a sub-project of Breathing Lights.


How and Why I Revised Parts of My Poem



Instead of developing my initial choice of a governing metaphor (a bold light that streams persistently, arcing broadly across the sky from horizon to horizon), I switched to a different metaphor—a softly pulsing light, a gentle ebb and flow more similar to the graceful swells, dim-to-bright, of the Breathing Lights window installations. So, I revised several of the verse lines by adding internal commas, punctuation that provided more pauses where the poem could take a breath. Moreover, I added some phrases that included conjunctions (and, or) in order to introduce a few two-part alternating currents.


At one of the October meetings of my weekly critique group, a friend suggested that the sound of my poetry would benefit from more occurrences of ‘’the rhythm of three’s.” I agreed, but I added examples sparingly, just enough to dance with the existing two-beat pulses, but not enough to overpower those pulses.



Another of my critique group friends suggested that I expand the poem’s thematic ending, opening out to wider symbolic resonances. So, I re-directed and disciplined the total flow of the poem, its progression from one image (light) to the next, from threshold at our feet to celestial cosmos. One reason that the poem’s final imagery highlights heavenly bodies is that, during my period of revision, the Earth was visited at night by a rare “supermoon” Harvest Moon.



Selecting words within my poem to render in Spanish required careful consideration. The Spanish words are integral elements of the poem’s architecture, crucial to the proportions of each stanza. After much re-arranging, I decided to place most of the Spanish words at the ends of stanzas in order to function as steady markers, moments when the sound of English turned off and another language turned on. Also, I selected Spanish words that would re-state, perhaps slantingly, preceding words in English; and that could be understood in context (with the clues provided by shared Latin roots) by English-only speakers. In addition, because many Spanish words are pronounced with the primary accent on the penultimate syllable, that regularity established yet another predictable pattern of pulses.



The overall tone is crucial in any poem destined to be read aloud in a public forum. Many of my revisions concerned the poem’s tone of voice, its subtle emotional ”colors” and shifting moods. In early versions, I adopted a tone which was lofty and surging, a tone more suitable for sweeping searchlights or streaks of sunbeams. In later versions, I softened and slowed the tone—more suitable for gently lapping domestic window lamps.


Also, because I had previously attended the Breathing These Words public poetry readings that took place on the streets of Troy, I came to realize that my own performance voice—perhaps not loud enough to be heard by an audience over noisy city traffic—could be enhanced by a paper version of my poem, a handout for by-standers to follow along with. So, at my Albany reading, I’ll distribute free, printed copies of my poem.



In early versions, I assumed a more formal—perhaps even stuffy– point-of-view. I employed the communal ”we” and ”our” and “us.” In later versions, I replaced the impersonal with a personal ”I”. As soon as I made that switch, I felt more intimate with both the people in the poem and the intended audience. As a result, I started to tuck into the poem some details from my own father’s memoir and family photographs. (My father grew up in an old house in Watervliet, a small city between Albany and Troy.)


About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

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