I finished the fifth draft of The Parliament of Poets at the end of March, so it’s on to the sixth… I think I now have to type it up because on the last pass through I discovered I had written the same several-line incident twice, in different books! I suppose, running around in my head, I wanted to be sure I worked it into the poem. Anyway, I’ve decided writing seven drafts by hand is no longer the way to go. I have probably over 98% of the poem on paper and need to be able to search the text to avoid repetitions and polish foreshadowing, things like that. Why not take advantage of technology Tolstoy didn’t have?
Also, I found reading from Book III in Buffalo, and preparing for it, that I revised passages and lines more in terms of oral and colloquial impact, though I had usually or often read the poem out loud to myself when writing the previous drafts. I think now that this is what I must do for the sixth draft. Read it as much as possible to a live audience and think and hear it, reflected back to me, really, in that way. I’ve always remembered hearing that Dickens would often try out different versions on audiences during his readings, revising accordingly. Something like that…
I’ve been astonished that I felt like the figure on the Rhapsode Amphora, lifted to that realm of transcendent song. I can not imagine ever having too much of that experience.
I’ll be reading from The Parliament of Poets at Austin International Poetry Festival in September, but two to four times a month between now and then would really help. If you know of any place willing to listen, let me know… use Contact under About.