Revisiting an old favourite

By February 24, 2016Poetry

Not so long ago I received an email query on one of the poems ‘Survival Guide’ from my first book In between the dancing.

I have a new project: I am learning a new poem by heart every fortnight. It’s fun! and makes me think more about the author’s choice of words, and I become more aware of the rhymes and alliteration. I’m currently learning “Survival Guide” and just wanted to check with you that there isn’t a typo in its printing in In Between the Dancing. These are the lines:

When you get to the higher slopes, pause
amongst the candlebarks and wrap your
arms around the shredding strips.

I just wanted to check you did not mean shedding? The bark strips are being shed by the tree, but are also shredded by the wind so both would make sense, but because of the word “strips” following, shredding strips is somehow more difficult/awkward to say than shedding strips. I imagine you did mean shredding, because the person is feeling emotionally shredded. I hadn’t noticed this word particularly before when reading the poem silently to myself. It’s a whole new thing reading them aloud, and having them alive inside you, on call, without needing to open a book.

Of course I revisited the poem and then the territory that led to the poem. Shredding is definitely the correct term though I know it is tricky to say, just as it is to go through.

What a beautiful moment: to be led back into one of my own poems by a reader’s response, to be led to reconsider the poetic choices I made at the time, to be challenged to put the effort into learning it that this reader did.

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