LAST CHRISTMAS (poem) and the revision process.

explanation

I encourage all writers, no matter what genre of writing they do, to be involved in a workshop where people who aren't you can look at your work through their eyes and tell you what's lacking. What works, what doesn't, what they liked, what they didn't. As a result of a workshop, I've decided to republish a revised version of this poem. Before the revised version is the text from the original poem (since Hub Pages won't let me publish the new one and since I want to make sure this one gets displayed as new, I have actually removed the other one from this site. Thanks for all the comments and feedback!) to the original in this HUB so you can compare. I hope you like my revisions!

Source

Version 1


This poem originally came from a free write in poetry class where I was asked to describe my mother’s kitchen. It began as just a list of words and images that meant something but had no cohesiveness or sense of order. It eventually grew into a list poem that covered the last Christmas I remember with my parents being together. The first typed draft was this:



Mother in the kitchen in a green apron,

tongue licking her upper lip in concentration.

Tears filled her eyes as she gazed

out of our huge kitchen windows through the leafless pear tree that grew through our deck

to snowcapped Mt Hood,

stuffing a turkey.

Grandma and sister making cookies in the kitchen:

cookie cutter Jesus, cookie cutter reindeer, cookie cutter gingerbread men:

Frosted. Baked.

Soft. Delicious.

Apple cider with cinnamon sticks, piles of mashed yams, green bean casserole,

sparkling wine, sparkling cider,

sweet ham, olives acting

as gloves, celery filled with cheese whiz, beets, skinless mashed potatoes, thick

brown gravy, dad and grandpa speaking in hushed tones,

Charlie Brown sharing the true meaning of Christmas,

The droning of football,

the finest China emblazoned in gold with engraved lillies,

matching table settings, green, red, silver,

white cloth napkins held in place by dark mahogany rings,

sweaters with reindeer, sweaters with snowflakes,

tiny flashing lights

illuminating ceramic Jesus lying on

angel hair, a Noble Fir drenched

in candy canes and garish metal balls and tiny flashing lights

draped over the objects of our greed wrapped in shiny snowmen and Santa clauses and gold

ribbons forming

a half moon across the floor,

the dog barking, Andy Williams singing,

dad frowning,

mom with her hand up a turkey:

the Christmas before my parents split up.


If you like this poem...

A revised version of it appears in my ebook, Digging to China, available both on Kindle and as a PDF. It will soon be available as a limited edition chap book. To request a PDF or chap book,click here.


Version 2


While I enjoyed the first draft, it was still just a draft. There was a lot of unneeded detail, some awkward line breaks and some unclear sentences. I turned it in for workshop and published it on my Hub and got some valuable feedback. Much of that feedback revolved around the need for some specific details and greater emotion. This feedback also suggested that some of the lines were confusing and some of the line breaks were poorly placed. I reworked the poem, being more deliberate about my details and tried to inject more feeling and more meaning behind the items listed. Also, many did not like the phrase “Objects of our greed” in the first draft. After rereading the poem, I agreed. I wasn’t trying to cast judgment on the situation or the people involved, I was just trying to share a story. “Greed” was a word that expressed judgment. I changed it for a gentler phrase that still got my point across. This is the second draft:

Source


Wearing her green apron, mother

stands in the kitchen with her hand

up a turkey, gazing

with moist eyes through our huge windows

through the leafless pear tree

to snowcapped Mt. Hood.

Grandma and my sister making cookies in the kitchen:

cookie cutter Jesus, reindeer, ginger bread men,

frosted. Baked.

Soft. Delicious.

Apple cider with cinnamon sticks, piles of mashed yams, green bean casserole,

sparkling wine, sweet ham

olives acting

as gloves, cheese whiz and celery, skinless mashed

potatoes, thick

brown gravy, dad and grandpa speaking in hushed tones,

Charlie Brown sharing the true meaning of Christmas,

distracted algebra and hot cocoa,

the finest China emblazoned with gold and engraved lilies,

matching table settings, green, red, silver,

white cloth napkins held between

dark mahogany rings,

sweaters with reindeer,

tiny flashing lights illuminating ceramic Jesus lying on

angel hair, a Noble Fir drenched

in candy canes and garish metal balls and tiny flashing lights

draped over objects of affection wrapped with shiny snow men and Santa Claus’ and gold ribbons

forming a half moon across the floor,

the dog barking, Andy Williams singing,

dad looking sad,

mom with her hand up a turkey:

the Christmas before my parents split up.


Revision.

my definition:

re: again

vision: see

synonyms: friend

Merriam-Webster

noun
revisions, plural

1.The action of revision

2. A revised edition or form of something

Web definitions

*the act of revising or altering (involving reconsideration and modification); "it would require a drastic revision of his opinion"

*the act of rewriting something

*rewrite: something that has been written again; "the rewrite was much better"

*altered or revised by rephrasing or by adding or deleting material; "the amended bill passed easily"

*Revision is the stage in the writing process where the author reviews, alters, and amends her or his message, according to what has been written in the draft. Revision follows drafting and precedes editing.


Version 3

The second draft was better in some ways but not as good in others. It had more specific detail, but too much detail. While I tried to inject MORE emotion, I ended up actually distancing myself even more from the poem and the feelings behind it. It was also suggested during workshop that I use specific references to my age at this time, but I rejected this advice as I didn’t think it was necessary for the poem to be felt and understood. I set out on my third draft to add more feeling and fewer yet more specific details. Third draft (and latest) turned out like this:

Last Christmas (Third revision)


Wearing her green apron, mother

stands in the kitchen with her hand

up a turkey, gazing

with moist eyes through our huge windows

through the leafless pear tree

to snowcapped Mt. Hood.

Grandma and sister making cookies in the kitchen:

cookie cutter Jesus, reindeer, ginger bread men:

Frosted. Baked.

Soft. Delicious.

Apple cider with cinnamon sticks, mashed yams piled, green bean casserole,

sparkling wine,

sweet ham, olives acting

as gloves, celery filled with cheese whiz, beets, skinless mashed potatoes, thick

brown gravy, dad and grandpa speaking in conspiratorial tones,

Charlie Brown sharing the “true meaning of Christmas”,

The droning of football,

the finest China

emblazoned in gold

with engraved lilies,

matching table settings, green, red, silver,

white cloth napkins held between

dark mahogany rings,

sweaters with reindeer prancing through snowflakes,

tiny flashing lights

illuminating ceramic Jesus lying

on angel hair, a Noble Fir drenched

in candy canes and garish metal balls and tiny flashing lights

draped over objects of affection wrapped with shiny snow men and Santa Claus and gold ribbons

forming a half moon across the floor,

the dog barking, Andy Williams singing,

dad looking sad,

mom with her hand up a turkey:

the Christmas before my parents split up.


This third draft is very close to what I’m trying to say. I won’t say it’s my last draft—I’m always revising and revisiting my works— but I don’t imaging I’ll change a ton. I think the rhythm is great, I’ve added some internal rhyme, more varied line breaks and very specific details. Certainly, some will say that the poem is still distant emotionally but that’s sort of the point. I’m trying to show my (the narrator’s) sense of detachment at the situation, a weird kind of innocence/ignorance. I certainly hope my emotion comes through in this draft and, if it doesn’t, I’m always open to more advice on how to make my feelings come out.

Regardless, I am pleased with this draft and the revision process. The workshops were very helpful in pointing things out to me that I as a writer missed or was unclear on. I’m amazed at how a simple list was able to transform into a poem that I am quite proud of and that helped me sort through some of the feelings I had following my parents’ divorce.

May this not be your last Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah!





all rights reserved. All Three versions copyright Justin W. Price, October 2011

Thanks for Reading.

PDXKaraokeGuy, also known as Justin W. Price, is the managing editor at eFiction horror. Husband to Andrea, father to two dogs. writer.poet.baseball fan. tattooed. He is am amateur theologian with a rabid sweet tooth. He resides in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.He has a poetry book available for Amazon Kindle, and also maintains a blog, FirstBlog. His work has been featured in the Crisis Chronicles, efiction Magazine, The Hellroaring Review, the Bellwether Review, eFiction Humor, and the Rusty Nail. Please visit his profile page for more information. Thanks!

Andy Williams, "Some Children See Him"

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Comments 26 comments

markzin1 23 months ago

I like the third version more because it has a better flow. All are good though. I have also written a Christmas poem. I think it is great except for the sad ending.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Ruby. I'm pleased to see you learning and enjoying. Take care!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

After rereading, I think i like the third version better, esp. the first line, " Mother wearing her green apron "....I'm learning from you Justin..Thank you...


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Dim, i think there's something about all of them that I like but I feel the third, to this point, best conveys the mood and feel I wanted to represent.

Blonde, Thank you for your input. I appreciate your comment and analysis.

Till, thanks for your kind words. I'm happy you were able to feel the emotions I evoked. Oddly enough, and I'm kind of irritated by it, my poetry professor from last term said my poems were too distant and didn't evoke much emotion. My wife was stunned when I said that.

Audrey, indeed. I tend to write a first draft really fast, sit on it for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, reread, revise, read it to someone, sit on it again, reread, revise and then publish a draft.

Thank you all for your input and comments!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Hi Justin--isn't the process of writing interesting? Thank you for being will to share your drafts here and discussing your process openly here. I can tell you that I like all three versions for varying reasons. I know that for me, sometimes things flow out really nicely, and little revision is needed. Other times, the poetry struggles to be born--and I spend a good deal of time revising. I have learned to let all of mine sit for a while before I revise and I get a feeling of satisfaction when I am done tinkering with it--I normally have other eyes vet my work--and it is an online community of poets that I work with--because of the rules here about prior publishing on the web, my work here is not vetted by that group and I am now looking for a local writing group to work with--

Thank you for your view into your process my friend--Thank you and happy holidays to you--


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

It's difficult to choose one from three good poems! If I had to choose I guess it would be the third because it does flow a little better (emphasis on little.) Each one evokes memories of Christmas and what goes on in a home during that time though sad with it being the "last Christmas."


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 4 years ago from australia

All were great but I have to say the first is my fav. I think as it just flowed with the words that flowed just the way they wanted to flow. Merry Xmas x


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 4 years ago from Great Britain

l am trying to explain to myself why the 2nd one ´´does it ´´ for me. l´ve come up with no answers yet, the 2nd one just does.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

chs, thank you. I don't have the patience either but I really desire and appreciate people's feedback. I'm arrogant enough to think that everything and anything I write is really good. but that doesn't mean it can't be improved on even more. The problem with the workshop i was just a part of was that it didn't have many poets. out of 20 in the class, maybe 5 were any good. it makes it hard to take their critiques, but I still recommend it!


chspublish profile image

chspublish 4 years ago from Ireland

Hi PDXKaraokeGuy,

You took on quite a task with two new versions of your original.

First of all, I think the poem itself in all its versions is great. A great painting of words.

As to which version? All three sit well with me, though the third might have a better 'look' in the arrangement of the lines.

Nonetheless, the original captures the spirit of the parallel worlds of Christmas festivity and personal pain - at least that's what I get out of it.

I prefer the 'rough-cut' version of any poem. I don't like to see poems 'polished' too much. The spirit of thought and feeling, I think, gets lost in the need to give it shape.

I don't think I would have the patience to listen to the comments and suggestions of others in a workshop, so I admire your perseverance.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Could Explorer, I appreciate your comment and understand where you're coming from. Poetry is best when it comes straight from your head to the pen to the paper. When I write a poem, I just let the words flow and then I let the poem sit for at least a couple of hours, but, usually a couple of days. If what I'm trying to say is not coming across, then it's my job to fix it. A workshop simply offers suggestions. you get real time feedback from poets at different reading and writing levels who offer advice, concerns and praises on your work. I might get 15 suggestions form 10 different people and I might only keep one of them but the value of that feedback cannot be calculated. Plus, it's nice to hear other people read your work, unless they fudge up the line breaks. That pisses me off. Than ks also for your compliment. I certainly like drafts 1 and 3 the best.

Ms Dora, thanks so much for your feedback!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

I think that the third version is an improvement: crisper and cleaner (better diction if read aloud).


CloudExplorer profile image

CloudExplorer 4 years ago from New York City

I read all three versions and I feel doubtful that after doing so, that any need for help in poetry writing is truly not necessary in my humble opinion.

As you first stated above at the beginning of the hub, I think the workshop thingy you spoke of, works well with prose. As for poetry I truly beg to differ, because I look at poetry as something like a painting.

When a painter goes at it to produce a masterpiece, he or she will do so without intervention. I feel true poetry needs to be done in this way, so to savor the authenticity and spiritual essence of its originator. Once seen by others and tampered with, its magic touch is lost forever.

You got the magic touch for sure, because I loved your first version more than the others. Nice angle and approach to teaming up efforts for writing, but group therapy on poetry may spell doom, that's what I feel & I'm sure many others will feel the same. Awesome hub either way voted up for such, as well as interesting & beautiful for the original poems version. Thanks for sharing @PDXKaraokeGuy.

Raw & uncut Poetry is my favorite, it tells me who the author truly is, in many ways as well. :)


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

rebecca, thank you for your feedback. I like the third one best too. Poetry is about personal expression but there is also good and bad poetry. I hope you continue to read and write poetry. It's a great medium!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I like all 3 but I think the 3rd has a better flow. For me anyway, and it's all personal preference. I think when it comes to poetry you should go with your own personal choice, I'm not much of a poet or poet critic, but to me poetry is a really personal expression that should please you first. You know best the feelings that inspired you to write it!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Alright, everyone. I have offered a third revision of this poem. I look forward to your feedback!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Chasing Riley, I'm glad you found this helpful. I think I will take your advice. I'm going to put together a third draft and post it here. Hopefully that will be the final draft. I've started a series of hubs on writing poetry. I have two so far. check them out. Hopefully you'll find them useful: http://hubpages.com/literature/Writing-Poetry-Tips...

Thanks for your comment!


Chasing Riley profile image

Chasing Riley 5 years ago from Los Angeles

I don't think you should delete it. I really liked reading both versions. The second one was a cool contrast to the first. I found it so interesting to see both and I appreciated seeing your process. As someone who is new to writing, it was valuable for me. I voted up, useful, and interesting!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

after reading and rereading this, I agree with you, the first is better, though i like aspects of the second better. I'm going to rework this poem and repost the original. I'll be deleting this HUB in the next couple of days. Thanks for your input!


Derdriu 5 years ago

PDXKaraokeGuy: It's the original for me. It carries me away with the tumbling of images, musicality, philosophy, and words.

Thank you, voted up, etc.,

Derdriu


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Sue, I can see that and I appreciate your feedback. I'll probly take a look at it again. there's things I like about both. I feel the seconds one has more specific details, which is good, but I cna see where it's too descriptive as well.


Sueswan 5 years ago

For me the second one is too descriptive.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

There's parts I like about both. Could you let me knoww hat you like and what you don't?


Sueswan 5 years ago

I like the original one the best.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for the feedback. I kinda felt that the first one had too many descriptions and they dind't pointnto the deeper meaning of the poem. I feel this new one is more concise and to the point, but still has the rich flavor and details.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Well it sounds like you had a lovely day with all the trimmings except, Mother and Dad. It was sad to me. I liked the first version better, but they were both good. I was able to see the setting, even the poor turkey..HaHa

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