Editing: Example #2

I received the following poem from Michael Lewis-Beck:


Breath cold, full moon behind a gray veil,
the tree tops map the moon.

Three pairs of socks through my boots
my toes are cold still.

Three hours of hard wood in the Vermont casting
lifts the cabin from 13 to 38.

Vegetable soup and a bottle of Gigondas,
read Frost by bed candle.

Sleep to wind in the high trees.

I liked this poem a lot but had a few suggested changes.  First, I was confused by the first line of the second stanza, so I suggested adding a comma between “socks” and “through.”  This breaks the flow of the sentence and allows the prepositional phrase “through my boots” to apply to “toes” in the second line rather than to “socks” in the first.

Second, I suggested reversing “cold” and “still” so that the rhythm of the line was enhanced:  “my toes are still cold”, which allows the stress to fall on each syllable/word, whereas the original seems to de-emphasize the stress on “still” in the last position.  Also, I like the “s” sound of “toes” and “still” when they are brought closer together, yet the change doesn’t cancel the effect of the assonance (the “o” sound in “toes” and “cold”)–in fact, I think the assonance is enhanced by adding a beat (with the word “still”) between the two sounds/words.

Finally, I suggested cutting the “the” in the last line–again for reasons of rhythm.  Without the “the,” we have “Sleep to wind in high trees”–every syllable stressed, with a powerful impactful ending.  Putting “the” in adds a downbeat and ruins this effect:  “Sleep to wind in the high trees.”

These changes make the poem stronger, in my opinion, and the author agreed to the changes.  This poem will appear in Albatross #20.  I will also post the edited version of the poem as a “featured poem” entry of this blog.

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