Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gawain, Again

I'm rather relieved this week because, after months of impasse on my Gawain and the Green Knight sequence, I am finally clear about its structure and general direction.

It all happened rather suddenly. I was just browsing my file of poems, tidying things up and pondering the shape my fourth collection might take, when it struck me that instead of just vaguely picking out key moments in the poem, or key emotions, and writing poems around them in an ad hoc fashion, I should follow the traditional division of the poem into four Fitts and restrict myself to writing only three or four poems for each Fitt.

For this new-and-improved sequence, I selected four of the poems I had already written and jettisoned the rest. Then I started writing some new poems in a more linear way, choosing key scenes rather than floating about the topic.

I was also concerned to change the style of the poems themselves. To regiment my earlier disorganised margins, I pulled in all off-set lines to the left-hand margin and capitalised the first word of each line. This seemed to give the growing sequence an air of "difference" from the other poems I've written this year, and also some faked, much-needed gravitas.

Having done that, and written some new poems in this new format, I then discarded the capitalisation, which had served its purpose, and allowed some of the lines to drift back into their earlier positions, away from the left-hand margin. But I am keeping the majority of lines flush with the left for the moment, as that formal discipline does seem to be working on the whole.

I'm still not sure whether the sequence is any good, by which I mean worth publishing. But it has some good moments. It's definitely something to keep tinkering with, on and off, with a spanner and an oily rag. My Sunday sequence.


BarbaraS said...

I like the idea of tricking yourself into writing, by changing the format of the poem - and then changing it back afterwards.

I also like the tinkering analogy - we poets are like that, bikers, or guys in the shed working away on a life's quiet passion, irregardless of how many times we're told to sell the engines and dump the oil-stained overalls.

Titus said...

Congratulations thus far.

Jane Holland said...

Sorry for not replying sooner. Been working on the new poems for the sequence. They're going .... without wishing to jinx it! ...really well so far.

But it's always hard to tell whether a poem's genuinely working, this close up. Next month I might loathe them and wish I'd never started this horror again.