Points South: Searching for poetic direction #dVerse

Peter Frankis of Australia is the host at dVerse ‘Meeting the Bar’ this time around, and he has given us the following exercise, advising us to ‘Write like a dog, edit like a cat…’

  1. Pick a poem you’ve already written — a favourite, one that needs a second look, one that never reached its full potential (maybe a shorter one for tonight’s exercise). This is the ‘before poem’. 
  2. Make a copy and give it the “Bök test” – highlight all the nouns – could they be more concrete, more specific? now do the same with the verbs — can they be more active? Now do the same with the adjectives & adverbs… 
  3. Look for the uncanny – can you find a ‘rainforest of chandeliers’, ‘a sky as blue as a car accident,’ ‘a speech as hard as a machine gun’? 
  4. Publish both poems – the ‘before’ and ‘after’ – on your blog.

As our host is from Australia, I immediately thought of a poem I’d been working on which is meant as the antithesis of Points North. So here goes:

Points South – Version 1

I’ve heard there is a Southern Cross
That’s seen in the Antipodes 
At night:
I’ve never seen the Southern Hemisphere 
Nor the Aurora Australis
A.K.A the Southern Lights
But I’m sure it’s a delight.

Some people say
Points south
Are whats between the legs
Below the mouth
But I’ve heard that the Southern Cross also
Points South.

I’d be lost in the outback
Unless an aboriginal guide
Equipped with didgeridoo 
Could help me out
And share some ancient wisdom 
All the secrets of the scorched earth and
Points South.

Analysis

I gave this the “Bök test”: the nouns are all pretty concrete, so I was happy with those, apart from one in particular (see below). I use very simple verbs here, both the active and passive forms of ‘seen,’ also ‘heard,’ ample use of the verb ‘to be,’ but I didn’t want to change these as I think they fit with the tone of the poem.

All the adjectives were there for a reason, but one in particular did pose a problem, and that was ‘aboriginal.’ I do not want to cause any offence by using this word, but mean it in its original sense ‘inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists; indigenous.’ I certainly don’t mean in the pejorative, colonial sense, hence not capitalising ‘Aboriginal’ – an aboriginal can be indigenous to any country, not only Australia. So I realised the didgeridoo would have to go, as it made to much of a caricature of my guide. I wanted to emphasise his wisdom in contrast to my bewilderment. So I rewrote the last stanza, and also made a few slight changes to the first two stanzas to better fit the metre of the poem, such as it is. I tried removing any unnecessary capitals from the beginning of lines as well, to improve the flow.

Points South – Version 2

I’ve heard there is a Southern Cross
that’s seen in the Antipodes at night:
I’ve never seen the Southern Hemisphere 
nor the Aurora Australis
(known as the Southern Lights)
– I’m sure it’s a delight.

Some people say
Points South
are what’s between the legs,
below the mouth
but I’ve heard that 
The Southern Cross also 
points South:

I’d be lost in The Outback
unless an aboriginal guide
equipped with ancient wisdom
could help out
a sunburnt squinting and bewildered
stranger; sharing
all the secrets of the scorched earth and
Points South.

23 thoughts on “Points South: Searching for poetic direction #dVerse

Add yours

  1. Smiling at this Ingrid, there’s oddness and humour, and the rhythm and meter work in both (better in the revised version) – glad you dropped the didge too. Thanks for playing along (& if ever we have international travel again – there’s some wonders in the outback you really should see).

    1. Thank you Peter – I always like it when a one of my poems raises a smile. I would love to make it to Australia some day but I’d have to be drugged on the flight I think – nervous flyer!

  2. Such an incredibe job here. These are the rules of poetery that loose me here and have to say i like them both and do love the didge too… maybe because my dog chewed mine thay carefully transported home from my trip..🤪 nice job 👏👏👏

  3. I like both versions, Ingrid, and love that you made revisions to show greater respect for the wisdom and also poked fun at yourself, the tourist who needs a guide in all of these points south. My favorite is the second one.

  4. Here’s a tip Ingrid. Before taking the long flight south have lots of double whiskeys. Zonk yourself out. Works a treat. ‘Tis is bugger of a flight and it just goes on and on and on….Oh? I’m meant to be commenting on the poem? Sorry Ingrid…..I’m a bit rough-around-the-edges and not too offey with the finer points of poetry yet. I am making an effort to improve and be more cultured, like you British. I had to chuckle when you dropped the caps. To me it sent everything silly. I’ve been capping everything for years. My mind knows what to do. It looked messy to me.

    Gosh I do go on….

    1. That was a trick I tried when I went to Hawaii – I can only apologise to the man sitting next to me! These days I don’t drink so I’d have to hypnotise myself or something!

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