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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof

Revision, revision, revision

Friday, April 15th, 2011 by

I’ve been busy trying to revive my flagging gardening blog, which means that this one has suffered. Apparently I cannot chew gum and walk at the same time. Or even on alternate days. Why is this? Never mind.

Not blogging doesn’t mean I’ve not been writing; vast changes have swept over Landscapes. Well, not vast, but significant. Enough so that I’ve not tried to keep the posted version up to date. Here’s a summary:

Chapter Two has a new poem, “Playing Like Idiots,” which is posted. I wanted something lighter and livelier than the rest of that chapter, which tends towards the discursive.

Formerly—and as of this date, still in the online version—the beginning of Chapter Seven poses a question (“What did you learn in the war?”) which gets returned to at the end of Chapter Eight, but on the same night it was first proposed. Linda’s first year at college was similarly divided between chapters 7 & 8.

Though the story bounces around in time a lot, most chapter have a single time frame. I decided to revise 7 & 8 so they’d adhere to this pattern. This meant moving “Later that night” from the end of 8 to the end of 7, then moving “The Curious Way One Thing Leads to Another” to follow “Later That Night,” so that the chapter will end with Cory’s question, “Why’d you become a nurse?” and Linda’s eventual answer, “It was an accident,” which leads directly into her experience as a geology student, and Nelson’s accident.

In the end (or rather, at the moment) Chapter Seven, now provisionally titled (Oh yes, did I mention that I’ve added chapter titles?) “Third Date” (isn’t that thrilling?), has a new poem, “Acceptance,” and where “Later that Night” used to describe the conversation and setting on the shore, now it describes getting there. This is partly because I wanted to write that scene of sneaking through barbed wire and past blockhouses, and partly because, once I’d moved the old version of the poem into Chapter Seven, the whole chapter began to look, again, way too heavy, serious, and discursive.

So the new “Later that Night” is now somewhat comic, while the original conversation on the beach has been moved into “The Curious Way One Thing Leads to Another,” which end the chapter.

So much for Seven, which is now an entire chapter devoted to a single evening.

I then reframed Chapter Eight to contain almost everything from Linda’s first year of college. It starts with a new poem, “The Final Battle,” about Linda’s chosen major (geology), and includes all the poems in the original college sequence. However, “The First Day” was so long—five or six pages—that I’ve broken it up into three: one with the original title, followed by “A Different Table” and “And the Boys.”

“Rumors,” similarly, got split, its second and third pieces being called “The Argument Heats Up,” in which Davison commits his amazing faux pas, and “Following a Lighter Vein.” Three poems got moved out of the chapter—“Trapped Coyote,” in which Linda explains why things became impossible with Marchenkoff; “December,” about Pearl Harbor, and “Counting Rhyme,” about the toll the war took on men Linda had known her first year at Berkeley.

One last major change was necessary to shape Chapter Eight. I wanted it to end with Farley’s telling Linda, following the accident, “You should have been a nurse.” In earlier versions, this had been the last line of “That Day on the Hill.” So I removed most of the hospital scene from that poem, ending it at “we started to breathe again,” wrote a new ending for “The Shirts of George the Third,” (still one of my favorite titles), and put the chunk from the end of “That Day on the Hill” into a new, final, poem, “Why We Were There.” And if you followed all that, you get a gold star.

One relatively small thing has to go, now that Linda no longer hails from Sacramento. The hospital they go to in in that city, and in earlier versions of “That Day…,” Linda had had a curious reaction to being there:

For me there was a strange dislocation: this was where

I’d gotten stitches in third grade when I

fell out of a tree, and where

I’d had my appendix out in eighth grade.

I had to let this go, reluctantly.