The Point of Poetry: Vote on the Version

Is what I wrote in yesterday’s post a poem? I’m still mulling that over.
In the same vein, here are two versions of one of my poems. Is one better than the other?
Verion 1.
All kitchens should have windows,
double wide and Windexed clear —
if not into sunny vistas,
at least into frames of sky
beyond a stand of trees marked
by clumps of day lilies,
maybe a lilac bush or two —
certainly a bird feeder
filled with lilting movement,
stirring morning

16 thoughts on “The Point of Poetry: Vote on the Version

  1. Hi. I like the first version better. Probably because the rhythm of the poem is more enhanced for me. For the most part, you seem to have three stresses per line, and because of that I feel the music. Whereas in the second version, it seems almost prosy to me (although I’m sure there are some who’d prefer that.) I’m going to very bold here and just suggest a few changes at the end.
    And as important,
    an indoor sill
    where green seeds sprout
    even as winter
    shrouds the pane.
    It seems to me your rhythm is changing at the end, to two stresses per line, so I just worked it out to feel that as well. But beyond all that, I like the sentiment and would like a window like that.

  2. Elaine: Like Greg, I too like the first version better — as it is now. The music and rhythm work better for me in the first poem, though I can see why you want to work with the second version — with breaking it all up in order to move the poem beyond that initial ‘registering’ of the moment.
    It may be that you only need a small revision in that second version to ‘smooth’ the music — and make that lovely quiet turn indoors … but then, I really liked the way I was surprised by the turn in the first version, even with the rhethorical hinge of that “And just as importnat,/” … because there is something “important” there, even if it’s not stated!
    I don’t know if this helps you — after all, you are the author. As a reader, the first one worked better for me because it “suits” my rhythms better, so to speak … but the second one is intriguing … and if you feel that you like that one better, trust your intuition, for it may well be that there is more to this poem than it is apparent in the first version … so keep writing!

  3. I’m with Greg. The rhythm in the first one is very nice. It’s a pretty poem, and it reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen window.

  4. I just thought I’d add: the poets I enjoy most are honest and open with what they write. I don’t care for form or all the technical “rules” of writing poetry. For me poetry is something I have to do in order to get something out of my head. Most of my poems are written in a maximum of one hour with no subsequent revision.
    A great poet to one person is a great fool to another. I can’t stand poets like Dickinson, Sexton and Shelly. They do absolutely nothing for me. The poets I tend to prefer are along the lines of Charles Bukowski and Naomi Shihab Nye. Most of my friends who like poetry tend to hate Bukowski, so it’s all a matter of taste.

  5. For me, the first version is the poem. “Lilting movement stirring morning’s light.” What a lovely image. I firmly believe in not tinkering too much with what one poster calls “initial registering.” It’s that registering that motivated the words to record it, and messing too much with it gets into manufacturing — which isn’t how poems are born (fortunately, or we’d probably have outsourced them by now).

  6. I prefer the first. I just don’t like the more casual language in the second (e.g. “not to mention”) and the rhythm. Which is not to say I think that poems should never have casual language and funky rhythm. I don’t know if I can dissect why I prefer the first. All I can say is that I get a distinct sense of emotion from the first that begins with the phrase “frames of sky”, while the second version just kind of leaves me flat for the entire first stanza. I think I’d feel the same way if I read the second version first, as well. There are moments I like in the 2nd, for instance the break between “busy with wings and/ morning light.” However, the emotional umph isn’t there at the beginning. Something that somehow fused those two elements I’d find really pleasing. But of course, that’s only this humble reader’s opinion 😉

  7. draft

    Not so long ago, Elaine had shared with us two versions of a poem she had been working on. Her struggle to rein in those slightly stubborn impulses that leapt at the chance to carry her words into different territories…

  8. draft

    Not so long ago, Elaine had shared with us two versions of a poem she had been working on. Her struggle to rein in those slightly stubborn impulses that leapt at the chance to carry her words into different territories…

  9. Strange; as I wrote in my earlier email to you, I like the second one better — and as I wrote then, I’m still not sure why — but it’s now doubly strange to like it better and not know why, given that overwhelmingly, people are voting for the first one. I think I agree with Mike Ross, that the stanzas change the structure in some way that appeals to me more, even though both work with similar (or even same) imagery.

  10. I like #2, but I was most taken by your question about greatness. It seems to me that a poet’s fame does not ultimately rest on objective criteria. We who are poets might wish that fame rested on objective criteria so we might have a better shot at it, so acclaim could be seen as being fair and attainable with the appropriate devotion. From what I have seen, a poet’s reputation rests almost entirely on luck and association; either you’re in the right place at the right time or you know the right people. One can become bitter about the unfairness of this situation, or focus on the greater purpose of poetry as a vehicle for self-exploration and development that can shore up the spirit of even the most unknown of bards.

  11. Oh, late to the party again I see. Gee, what a surprise…
    I love the first poem, as it sounds and feels like a poem; there is rhythm embedded within the words you chose, the way you decided to put them together, in short, pausing breaths, which also create another overlaying rhythm, not unlike a song with counterpoint and harmony.
    “filled with lifting movement,/stirring morning’s light” is movement but so is “a bird feeder busy with wings,” which is a mini-song in itself.
    I’m greedy. I would have combined both of those lines somehow. But then, I never believed in that “less is more” stuff. Even though I know it’s one of the “Rules.”
    I’ve always hated rules. They make my skin itch.

  12. I think that it is brilliant that you are putting your work on line and asking for others to give you constructive criticism, that is very brave and so congratulations.
    Here are a few of my thoughts. I agree with the general concensus that the first is the better of the two. The three stanzas of the 2nd unnecessarily fracture the idyllic feeling that i think you are trying to create. On more of a technical note I feel that perhaps you should work with rhyme a little bit, not because I think ‘Poetry Should Rhyme’ but because I believe it to be very good training for an aspiring poet such as yourself. If you were to do experiment with rhyme a little, and with more pronounced rhythm, I think your poetry would achieve a greater melodic resonance. I’m sure that most of the people reading this will agree that ‘clumps of day lilies’ reverberates unwholesomely in the poem, not because of it’s image but it’s musical phrasing.
    I hope this will not cause any controversy…

  13. Well, Alex, I appreciate your comment, but end rhymes are just not my style. I sometimes use internal rhymes, assonance, because that doesn’t detract from the focus on the flow the way that end rhymes do if they’re not done well.
    And just to clarify something for you: I’m not a neophyte poet. I’ve been published on an off since the 70s — including in a 1998 anthology “Which Lilith: Feminist Writers Recreate the First Woman.” I was posting my work at this point because I was in an advanced poetry workshop at the New York State Writers Institute led by Eamon Grenan (you can Google him to find out who he is). The second version is how he suggested I might consider re-writing my first draft. Now, he is much more famous and accomplished than I, so it just goes to show — as do the comments to this post — how much one’s opinion of what is good poetry is so very personal.
    You might find it interesting to look at another poem that resulted from an assignment at the workshop.
    It started like this —
    and ended like this —

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