Wednesday, August 08, 2007

comments on “On the Edge” version 7

Final version? Perhaps. The original version contains 264 words, the current version 342. About an 80 word increase.

What are the major differences between them?

The first version addresses only the youth. The current version addresses his seersucker suit, the cliff he’s standing on, the youth, and a nearby seagull in flight.

In the first version the wind lifts the youth, saving him from a suicide? In the current version the suggestion that the youth might leap from the cliff is so subtle one might credibly argue it’s not there. “It’s too late to intervene,” says the speaker of the first version. “Let [your arms] hold you up,” says the speaker of the current version.

In the first version the wind is personified, as are other non-living elements of the scene, the wave “gestures”, the foam’s “kiss”, the wind “licks” and “brushes your hair”. Less of that in the current version, though the “face” of the cliff is interrogated for its inner thoughts – “is that passivity?” or “preoccupation with the self”? (Could this be a comment by analogy on the youth’s face?)

There is eroticism in this personification of the non-living world in the first version. The kiss, the lick. The personification of the non-living in the current version suggests an indifference to the youth’s fate. Even the only other living creature, the gull, gets in a “jeer” from a mouth with a “beauty spot” (the rejection of the feminine?), though that, the speaker insists, isn’t personal.

The first version’s lines often sprawl. It’s a thick block of text. The current version is tidily arranged in separately titled sections, the stanzas within each having an equal quantity of lines (but for the cliff section, which is 4-5-4).

The first version seems full of action, even involved in the action it describes. The current version feels much more removed from the action, the speaker contemplating from a distance, from an ironic remove? The teasing of the first version, “You look so clean-cut … so debonair”, gets a curl to its lip in the current version, “You’re no boy … You’ve dressed yourself … Aren’t you debonair?”

The first version is a unit. The current version is four poems. Would any of the four be able to stand on its own? “To the seersucker” is my favorite read. Its voice is foreign to me; it barely ties in with the following 3 parts. Only its last line, “Coast?” Seersucker is not again mentioned (“handsome kit”?), no “seersucker seagull”. Seersucker is worn in the humid, windless south, probably not the best choice for the breezy cool west coast. No second mention is made of the “brave straw hat”; perhaps the youth left it in the car (the one he parked on the “road” away from which he took the “narrow path”?).

The youth has “cleanly shaved the dark from [his] pink face”; the cliff face is stubbled (though the jumble of geological items that poke from its “softer” skin don’t make for a neat picture);

Not a single question mark in version one. Ten question marks in version seven.

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