Evolution of the Poem: charcoal landscape …

If you’ve read my poetry, or follow my Instagram account, you’ll notice that I have an obsession with clouds (see photo above!). Last December, this poem of mine was published in the new Autumn Moon Haiku Journal:

charcoal landscape
a smudge of nimbostratus
on the horizon

I like this poem because it captures the ephemeral nature of clouds. I can almost visualize the artist at the easel, trying to get the effect just right before the cloud changes shape again.

When I was very small, I took an art class and used charcoal pencils. Over the years, I’ve taken more of a liking to pencil sketches, but the technique of shading – or attempting to capture a moment through shading – is similar. For me, this reminds me of smudging and erasing and smudging again, coupled with watching clouds and trying to capture their beauty in words or by photograph.

Now, similar to other poems I’ve explored through Evolution of the Poem, this one didn’t start out this way. An early draft read:

shaded charcoal lines
smudged slightly at the edges …
nimbostratus clouds

In retrospect, there’s a lot wrong with this picture. First of all, there is no picture. What are we even looking at? L1 doesn’t tell us.

L2 doesn’t fare much better. The phrase “slightly at the edges” is wordy and doesn’t add anything to the image.

L3 is redundant. I remember thinking that it was a heavy line, ponderous like a dark cloud ready to rain, but in reality, it just weighs down the poem.

I played around with this haiku for at over three years – and it was rejected at least twice – before it found a home.

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