Friday, March 17, 2023

The Clearing (poem) + a Peek at My Poetry Revision Process

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Laura at Small Reads for Brighter Days for Roundup.

This week's ArtSpeak: Light is an amalgamation, as most poems are. 

The art itself "The Clearing" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir came from an art-a-day calendar gifted to me by my eldest son for Christmas... and the striking line of the Golden Shovel I crafted comes from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet: "But soft what light through yonder window breaks?"

(I've been on a bit of a Shakespeare kick lately and recently bought for myself a book of Shakespeare quotations. I dip into it from time to time, and it always always finds a way into my writing.) 

The Clearing

You think you can't take another step, but

you do. Brambles soon give way to soft

pine needles lining a nest of sunshine. What

else can you do but guzzle unexpected light,

praise the boots that carried you through?

Impossibly you ignore the pull of yonder—

for a moment you are both sky and window,

a map into the place where despair breaks.

- Irene Latham


Okay. Now for that peek at my revision process, as promised in the title of this post.

This poem pleases me. I love that it gave me a reason to use the word "yonder." And "the place where despair breaks" ?? That's fresh and unexpected and I love it.

But I can already see how the Golden Shovel weakens this poem. 

Or rather, I can see how I could strengthen the poem by pulling it away from the Golden Shovel form. 

Example: see that "through" on the 5th line? A stronger line would end with the word "you." But because it's a Golden Shovel, I'm stuck! Also, Golden Shovels are notorious for clunky line breaks. I would break these lines completely differently if not for the form.

In my mind, I have 3 options: 

1. Keep the Golden Shovel, which is what I've done for today, due to time constraints. 

2. Answer the question "through What?" and change the 6th line (and possibly entire rest of poem). That could be interesting...and I could keep the Golden Shovel.

3. Deconstruct completely by pulling it out of the form, and see what happens! Whenever I have time, I'm going to give it a try.

I mention all this because poems that could be strengthened by pulling away from form is something I see A LOT when considering poems for Birmingham Arts Journal. Forms a great and fun, and can lead to some wonderful poems. But sometimes they are best just used as a starting place. 

And that's my unsolicited poetic advise for today. 😊 Thanks so much for reading!


  1. I enjoyed both the poem and your thoughts on how it could be improved. Happy day!

  2. Amen. I love form for how it gives me creative contstraints. But, a polished poem is its own animal. Interesting process thoughts and questions here. Thank you!


Your thoughts?