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Friday, August 29, 2014

More or Less? Is There A Magic Formula for Just Right?

I've been working on a poem ever since we got home from Germany and Prague. No, that's not entirely right. I've been working on it from the time we made a stop in a small village in the Czech Republic with our tour group. The place has haunted me ever since seeing it and hearing the history from our tour director. Words and phrases that fit the situation have swirled through my mind all the days since.

Last week, I finally got a first draft written and after letting it sit a couple days, I did a small bit of editing and sent it to my online critique group. The response from all who critted it was mostly positive and even very encouraging but a few who critiqued wanted to know more about what happened in that village. Questions abounded. Tell us more some said.

I've been thinking about it and I have a huge question mark regarding adding a lot more to the poem just to tell more of the story. First of all, I liked the fact that people were moved enough to want to know more. But is more going to take away from the poem? Is more going to dim a little of what's already there? Will adding to the poem really enrich it or will it make it sound mediocre and more like a nonfiction article than a poem?

These are all questions I've been contemplating. I may add a little more to the poem but not a lot. I want there to still be the bit of mystery that I felt when I visited the small community. I received bits and pieces not a whole story with all the answers and that is what I want the poem to portray, as well. There are few situations in life where we receive all the answers.

When you write a poem or a piece of prose, do you ever feel that you've overdone it? Or do you think you should swell the piece with more tidbits of information? What's the magic formula? How do we know when to add more or when to cut, cut, cut and end up with less than the amount of infomation in our original draft?

It's a little bit like the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears.  The porridge was too hot, too cold, and then--just right. The chairs were too hard, too soft, and then--just right. The beds were the same until Goldilocks found the one that was just right. I'm looking for that just right stage with the new poem.

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