Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rapunzel: The process of a first draft

I thought today I might illustrate how a rant can become a poem. Normally yesterday's experiment would have been reformed into something more resembling a poem in what is called "a first draft." A first draft includes revisions, revisions which will likely be revised later in second and third drafts. The difficulty is in not squeezing the original feeling of a poem into a straitjacket so tight it fails to move the reader, losing all spontaneity and connection. A technically great poem is just that; technically great, but essentially forgettable if all the juice has been squeezed out of it. I have been especially guilty of over-revising in the past, though usually a poem that suffers that fate never had much of a future anyway. You can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse if you try hard enough, but the sow's ear is much more interesting. So here's a first draft:



War is fractious, filled with dirty bombs.
We sell these bombs. Imagine!

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked:
Whatever a man sows, he shall also reap."

We sow global discord in the name of peace,
praise slaughter in the name of stability.

We kill the innocent because
we cannot find the guilty.

How elusive our enemies have proven!
Wolves hidden in sniper’s robes.

Tragedy is loosed upon the world like a virus
and more than birds are dying and will die.


I’m sorry to say it, but "The World Trade Center?”--
Good target!--as if we owned the world!

It is this hubris that the world hates,
the blindness of a consumer-driven culture

of anti-culture, a whore's bed of merchandise.
There is no hegemony, Wolfowitz.

The dollar's fallen. Long live the Yen!
Come down, American, come down, Rapunzel.

Your hair is tangled with barbwire.
Your gown is made of Kevlar.

Apes swing on your braid;
The impotent Congress nods.

They will pull us out by the roots,
stain the tower with the blood of scalps.

Thine in truth and protest,


(essentially kilorat neutral but still feeling sketchy underneath)


  1. Anonymous4:04 PM PDT

    "The difficulty is in not squeezing the original feeling of a poem into a straitjacket so tight it fails to move the reader, losing all spontaneity and connection."

    ---amen to this!

    Brave, iconoclastic remark about the World Trade Center, CE. The name, its function, happened to reek with first-world privilege.
    Of course no apology for its destruction (do we have to say this?). I suspect even today the average American has no inkling about the origins of much of the world's hatred towards us. It always pays to know how you are perceived by others, not necessarily to agree with their perceptions, but to aid in self-understanding.

    take care

  2. Hi, there. Interesting draft. I'll be coming back to see how it progresses. Would you agree that the second part is already farther along in working "rant" into poetry?

  3. Thanks, Norm: Hubris, hubris, hubris--an its attendant blindness!
    Sophocles and Shakespeare would have understood our plight.

    And thanks to Anhaga--who correctly perceived the weakness of the poem's first part, since discarded in tomorrow's post.


Please share your opinion!

Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!