As a follow-on from the Part 1 Blog, Art of Insomnia Revised for Reprint (Part 1) here are the details of the five revisals made in the reprint of Art of Insomnia, each explanation accompanied by a photograph showing the revised version of the poem as it now appears in the chapbook.
Revisal 1: ‘HELENIUM ONE AND ONLY (Helenium sui generis)’ is the third poem in Section 1 (BEAUTIFUL/TERRIBLE) of the chapbook. It is a tiny poem, written in response to a prompt to compose a poem of no more than 10 lines, describing a person/event as if describing a flower/plant in a seed catalogue. As you’ll observe from the photograph just one word was changed, replacing the word ‘warned’ with the word ‘aware’. The sole reason for this was to avoid unnecessary and pointless repetition, the word ‘warning’ having appeared in the immediately preceding line. Had I not had a much better reason for revisal [Revisal 5], I’d probably have left the poem as it was. This is the poem.
Like Revisal 1, the reason for the minor amendment in Revisal 2, to ‘NEARLY NOT GOING OUT SYNDROME’ is partly to correct unnecessary word repetition in successive lines. In the original version the word ‘effort’ appeared in lines 11 and 12 and worked fine but, as there was going to be a necessary revisal elsewhere [Revisal 5], I took the chance to replace ‘effort’ with ‘battle’ in line 12 because I think ‘battle’ better expresses what is going on in the mind, as well as avoiding repetition. This is the new version of the poem from Section 2 (FRENCH RETREAT) of the chapbook ‘Art of Insomnia’.
As with the previous poem in Revisal 2, Revisal 3, of poem PILGRIMAGE, is from Section 2 of the book (FRENCH RETREAT) and relates ultimately to a promise I made to myself. Unlike the two previous revisals, this one is not about removing an unnecessary repetition; it is about a decision to remove a phrase and, in replacing it, name the destructive demon ‘overthinking’.
Like Revisals 2 and 3, REVISAL 4 also relates to Section 2 of the chapbook (FRENCH RETREAT). Once again the original reason for the revision was the wish to avoid inappropriate repetition. I do very much approve of good repetition. However in this poem, ‘FOUND IN FRANCE’, I noticed that in the list of things my late wife would have found off-putting about the French place to which I had retreated I had unwittingly mentioned bees twice. I decided that I’d remove the first mention of them and emphasise the inescapability of the dogs by inserting the word ‘doorway’. Helen liked, but was afraid of, dogs and in the French getaway there were three dogs, usually present at one doorway or another! Just one revisal to go now. In the meantime here’s the revised version of ‘FOUND IN FRANCE’ as it appears in the reprint (over two pages).
Finally, there’s REVISAL 5, the one absolutely necessary revisal that led to the opportunity to make the other four less necessary ones which, though less necessary, do – I hope – clarify and improve what they replace. Anyway, Revisal 5 is the really embarrassing one. Originally, I loved the sound of the word ‘enervate’ as it originally appeared in line 25. I loved reading ‘energy to enervate’ and I thought I knew the meaning. However, some time after publication of the chapbook I saw a tweet in which someone referred to former Makar Jackie Kay describing in another poem a mistaken use of the word ‘enervate’. I checked and was distressed to find that the word meant pretty much the opposite of what I thought! Using ‘energise’ would not have worked with energy in the same line, and I did not like any of the synonyms I could find. So, I thought about a word that meant the opposite of being brought down and ‘elevate’ was ideal to convey that meaning. It also sounded similar to the word it was replacing, and that pleased me because I felt I was retaining as much of the sound of the original as possible while correcting the meaning and purpose of the line. This final revisal is of the poem ‘AFTER THE ENDING’ which appears over two pages in the chapbook’s Section 3 (RETURN TO WHAT REMAINS).
To purchase ‘Art of Insomnia’, this is the page with all the details Art of Insomnia