I told y’all ‘Hot Spring’ was really bad. This is because I wrote it in the spring of 2013, during my first year as an undergrad student. This was originally an assignment for my junior-level poetry class. My professor, Chris Allen, instructed us to write a poem based on an image. ‘Hot Spring’ was the result.
When I wrote this poem, it was about 6 AM. I’d been up all night, as I had a lot of trouble sleeping during that time of my life. I think I wrote it the same day the poem was due, which partially explains why it’s so terrible. But I was so proud of it at the time! I thought I was the next poetry maestro, so much so that I decided to treat myself to red velvet pancakes at Ihop before class started. (Because, as the poem says, I was really hungry.)
Oh, if only I’d known how wrong I was.
At the end of each week, we workshopped. Mr Allen would put our poems up on the projector, read them out loud, and everyone else in the class would give feedback on how to improve them. That week was my week to workshop, and I decided to workshop the poem I’d just turned in. Little did I know that day would be the day I’d grow my thick writer’s skin.
One of the first things Mr Allen said after he read it was, ‘What is this?’ My heart sank. Here I was, expecting praise for my vivid colours and strong verbs, yet he hated it. He thought it was crap, and he wasn’t afraid to say so.
I tried to explain myself, telling him I’d written it at 6 AM after being up all night and barely eating. I’m sitting there thinking, this is what all great writers do, is it not? We romanticise insomnia, we stay up all night trying to make each word perfect, trying to find that inspiration. Yet it still wasn’t good enough.
Mr Allen reminded me that it was a very rough draft, and one of the things that makes great poetry so great is the revision. It’s fine to write a poem at 6 AM in a flurry of inspiration and emotion, but if it’s no good, it’s no good. He advised me to get some sleep and look at it again with a clear head.
He may have wounded my pride at the time, but he was right. I took his advice and edited the poem. This resulted in a title change: ‘Hot Spring’ was now ‘Channeling Mother Nature’.
So here it is, my brainchild, my baby, last edited in 2013. It’s still one of my favourites.
Channeling Mother Nature
burned sienna by Mother Nature’s hand,
expands to the horizon.
Dusted frost contrasts with golden-orange flares
of rough, rocky earth,
breathing life into what would otherwise be
bland, mundane brown.
Countless cracks and crevices pave the way
to a jagged, eye-shaped chasm
that is home to a swirling sea of
canary, chartreuse, cyan, royal blue.
The brilliance of it all
tempts me to dive headfirst into the canvas,
and I can almost feel the luminous heat
emanating from the rainbow-water.
For a moment, I idly wonder if this spring really exists,
or if it is just another brainchild of an uninspired artist.
The edited version still isn’t the best it could be. It still needs work, the last stanza still isn’t quite right, but Mr Allen praised it in the portfolio. I think it’s one of the best examples of my rebirth as a writer. I remember being near tears in class when he was tearing it apart. Now, I’d just nod along to such criticism.
I know #BadPoetry has been all about unedited work and the positive things it has to teach us about inspiration and passion, but the message our bad work carries may not always be a good one. This is certainly true for ‘Hot Spring’.
Nevertheless, the first draft provided a strong basis for the edited version. Notice I haven’t changed very much in regards to the description and colours, just rearranged them to sound more poetic. There was nothing inherently wrong with what I was trying to say; it was just that my muddled brain put it all in the wrong order, and I was already preoccupied with hunger and drowsiness that clouded my judgment.
I think this is where I’ll be ending the #BadPoetry series. It’s been a great run, and I hope you guys have enjoyed it. I certainly have. #BadPoetry has given me countless chances to reflect on my poetry writing skills and my work in general, but I think this is a good note to stop on.
Don’t worry, though – there’ll be a new series taking its place, and I hope you’ll find it just as interesting. Stay tuned on Wednesday for the official announcement!