Every year I write a Halloween poem – most of the time I try to write a funny poem. When I was in college, I even wrote some performance Halloween poetry (which wasn’t that bad – I should try to find where I stored those).
Anyway, when I was working on this year’s poem, I got into a good rhyming flow, right up until this point:
I waited there so patiently
Out on the grassy hill
But not a soul came near to me
The air was light and still
So far, so good, even if I wasn’t a fan of the fourth line. I had a plan for where I thought this poem was going. It was going to tie into my being abroad. The original title for this poem was “Indifferent Spirits,” because I felt a real disconnect on Halloween. Normally I’m good at finding a spiritual connection on All Hallow’s Eve, but not tonight. This poem was originally going to involve a bunch of ghosts wandering by, speaking Japanese and wondering what I kept talking to them in English.
The rhyme suggested a different path, and because I didn’t plot out this particular poem I followed. When it turned out the narrator was dead already (what a twist!) I realized that I had wanted to tell a very different story than a funny miscommunication piece.
The last line was a tough one, because my brain really wanted me to end on a scary note, not a funny one. The last four lines were to culminate in something like “There is no pleasure greater than/ a death on Halloween.” I thought this entirely too dark for my desire. While I wasn’t going to change the angle of the poem, I also didn’t want to end it on such a strong, morbid note. Better to go with the angle of time and Halloween, since I think that is what resonates more with a soul than the idea of accumulating more souls.
My brain was upset at this, because it was a really good rhyming couplet. But first thoughts are not always the best thoughts. I try to limit editing when doing a flow poem, but I think the writer has the ultimate authority to step in when tone takes a sharp left turn. Especially when its within his or her own voice.