Recently, I was combing through old poetry, and ran across an early draft of my scifaiku poem “at the barre …”, complete with a list of markets that had rejected it.
Now, I love the completed version of this poem, which reads:
at the barre
the graceful arms
of a spiral galaxy
— first appeared in Rattle‘s Issue 49, Fall 2015, Tribute to Scientists
And I was excited when this scifaiku won an award, placing second in the 2016 Dwarf Stars Award given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.
But the poem didn’t start out that way. In fact, the early versions were downright terrible.
My inspiration for this poem came from my daughter, who was taking dance class at the time. One of the ballet positions – fourth, if I’m remembering correctly – had one arm curved over her head and the other curled around her front. She reminded me of a spiral galaxy.
So, I began to research spiral galaxies, and discovered that their arm positions determine whether they are classified as spiral galaxies or barred spiral galaxies. The shape that reminded me most of my daughter was barred – an SBc.
I thought this was a nifty comparison, and conjured a row of little galaxies standing in front of a ballet barre. Such a lovely image should be easy to put into words, no?
This is an early draft of my poem (yes, I actually sent this out):
spiral galaxies —
intergalactic dance troupe
in “b” position
Um, yeah. It’s my poem, and it doesn’t even make sense to me.
But I knew I liked the concept, so I hung in there and kept editing. Barre was a lovely word to use because it both evoked the ballet and gave a nod to barred spiral galaxies. Once I put that word in there, I could take out the line about “b” position (the “b” stood for barred anyway), and I didn’t need to use the word dance. Elimating that clunky verbiage allowed the poem to flow from there.
So, please, my poet friends, hang on to your poems that speak to you, even if they start out rough. Haiku or scifaiku, in particular, can be deceptively tricky to write. Some short poems practically write themselves, but not this one. “At the barre …” needed distance, perspective, and research to come together.
Photo credit: That’s spiral galaxy Messier 81 above, as imaged by NASA/JPL/Caltech/University of Arizona/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/NOAO/AURA/NSF.