Every professional writer knows that while ideas are exciting, drafting is work. Which is to say, I had planned to finish the entire draft of this poem yesterday, but the childish creative side dragged its feet. (Frankly, it got panicky and began avoiding the issue.) Fortunately, my more adult editorial side has learned some tricks over the years, like saying, “Okay, you don’t have to get it all done at once. Let’s just get a few lines put together and sleep on them. We can finish those in the car on the way to work tomorrow.”
So I’m at the office now, and here’s the draft first stanza from the sonnet I promised John Cochrane for his wife. (See www.lestersmith.com/poetry for a history.)
The kids have left us. All the rooms upstairs
are empty of their noise. All that remains
are boxes in the attic—clothes, toy trains,
some picture books and dolls, old teddy bears.
A few poetic comments are in order.
First, you’ll note the abba rhyme scheme. That commits me to an overall abba cddc effe gg pattern, or (if I really want to work at it) abba abba abba cc or an interlinked abba bccb cddc ee. I’ll use the first pattern, mainly because it’s easier.
Why not the more common abab? I like the way a rhymed first and last line “embrace” the quatrain, even though having rhymes juxtaposed in lines 2 and 3 can seem unsophisticated. For a love poem, especially one about family, I believe I can be forgiven.
Second, it’s surprising how quickly a list of things fills a quatrain. Thank you, Jenny, for reminding me to include dolls, which also transitions to the image of teddy bears, which I needed for the rhyme.
Finally, my childish creative side has now been reminded how much fun it has with rhythm. It’s proud of itself for the iambic pentameter overall, the sudden stop in the middle of line 1, the parallelism of sentences 2 and 3, and that list of specific items. For now, I’ll let it bask in that glow in order to encourage more verses. Editorial critique will come later.
(Which isn’t to say you can’t make reader comments now, if you like.)