On Friday I substituted for a high-school drama class. The students were cleaning out backstage and they threw out some old (as in beginning of the last century old) books. I rescued half of one of the torn books because I liked the thick pages, and the flowery designs on each page. Plus I thought I could maybe do something with the text. I decided to make an erasure poem out of it, blacking out words on each page with a Sharpie marker, leaving words to make new lines for my own poem. (This was something that I learned about at one of the workshops during the June Seminar for Younger Poets 2007. ) I like the exercise of doing an erasure poem because it skips the step of staring at a blank page and wondering what to write. There is also the challenge of using only the words that are available on the page. Sometimes I find some interesting phrases and ideas that I never would have thought of otherwise.
Below I have the results. Sometimes I don’t do anything further with an erasure poem, the exercise itself is all that matters– the fact that it gets me thinking poetically, creatively. Still, I think this has potential and I plan to continue working on it, tweaking pronouns, editing some lines out, changing the order, the line breaks etc. Writing it here I kept the lines and stanzas really simple, mostly because I can’t seem to figure out the formatting on the blog post.
Also, here is a link to the original poem. http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/9098/The pages I have are not the full text that is shown here: I have most of Legend and the paragraph before. Each of the pages in the book contains two of the stanzas.
Erasure Poem (from The Toiling of Felix by Henry Van Dyke)
at last in the quiet ground life is heard: “raise the stone, and thou shalt find me;leave the wood and there I am”
‘neath the shadow of the crumbling gods, ancient darkness, young light.
volumes of silence, night and day. haunted churches.
his spirit, the loss of all things
Lingering in the dark, full of desire. let hope be satisfied!
I long to see the clouds, the sunrise.
Every hope I have forsaken, save this one.
solitary stands my heart; I see Thee as Thou art.
Fill the midnight of my spirit with light.
I watched I waited; the veil is lifted.
I seek the desert where solitude and silence stand.
at dawn or twilight, o’er the rolling waves of sand;
LISTEN- the darkness. stillness, heavy beneath his feet.
On the mountain of the Bird the tribes of air assemble, perch upon the highest rock.
the afterglow of sunset deepened
tell me how, breathless, darkness folded round the bird.
Watch the river silvery coiling, seaward roll. Night by night the planets range their glittering court; the moon, the sky.
Now at last kneel before the threshold, dare eyes to lift.
a tattered fragment of midnight fled desire.
hidden in the words may lie: the stone,the wood, the tree.
the haunts of men: Dust, and noise, and hot confusion. quivering, tingling, throbbing—silent thunder. slide on the rushing river.
day and night: dreams of solitary white stones. a sense of comfort. All is ours.
water, stones, God, flow softly
rising round at the breaking of light, words of prayer
Once again slipping, leap toward the river, using strength to save—
Did he dream?
the desert, the city that his hands helped build in the dark
at the closing hour of day.