I just wrapped up the finishing touches on the longest poem I’ve ever written. I’ve been tinkering with it now for about three years, off and on. Some of that time has been spent ruminating, not writing, which is still writing.
It’s the kind of poem that some people will read and say is too wordy. But they fail to see the form for what it is. I’m not sure I can describe it adequately. You could call it an epic burlesque and that would be accurate. But I hesitate to use the word “burlesque” as you might get the wrong idea.
At 2,568 words, the poem stands at 524 lines. Not a bad clip, and from beginning to end it reaches to nearly 12-1/2 pages on 8 1/2 X 11. Certainly not a Canterbury Tales and no Homerian apple pie, but a long poem nonetheless.
So What Took So Long?
One may be wondering why it took so long to complete the poem. It’s a good question. I couldn’t tell you how many hours that is in real time. If one asks a pilot how long he’s been flying you might get an answer like “35 years”. Well, we all know that his 35 years didn’t consist of continuous flying. He slept, spent time with the family, golfed, traveled as a passenger a few times, and likely drove a car a number of times as well. He may have only actually put in 10,000
miles hours of flying time over the course of that 35 years.
This is how poems are written. A poet who has been writing for 20 years may spend 10,000 hours of writing time penning hundreds or thousands of short poems or may spend that time writing a few long ones. I guess I’ve done both. But “The Sandbox” is the longest to date.
How I Know It’s Finished
I suppose I could go on revising. It is really easy to find a few imperfections, and the longer the poem the more of those there will be, but this poem says what I needed it to say and says it in all the ways I intended for it to be said – and then some. There were elements that I’d planned and I worked on until I got them right, then there were those I hadn’t thought of that just fell into place. Que sera, sera.
The poem started out – if you saw my first draft you’d say it was a different poem altogether – in a completely different form. It was rather contrived. But I allowed myself to break out of the “planned” version and to just let the poem work itself into what it wanted to be, so to speak. I think that is the best way to go about writing anyhow. But when I did that the poem took off in unexpected directions. Sometimes those new directions were compelling and interesting and other times they were mere distractions. But after countless hours of revising, ruminating, regurgitating, scrapping, taking things out, putting things in, taking back out and putting back in, I’ve finally arrived at a stopping point. The end is here. How do I know?
I’m reasonably sure I can take nothing out and improve it. If I put anything else in I’ll ruin it. The poem says what it needs to say. Nothing more. Everything I wanted in it is in it. What didn’t need to be in it has been removed. Is it perfect? Likely not. But I feel it. I’m satisfied.
To me, the end of the poem is intuitive. I feel it in my gut. It’s done. Now it’s time to start marketing.