Revision Process Revealed?

GoodIn his second posthumous collection of haiku, Crestwood Lake: New and Selected Haiku Poetry (Winchester, Virginia: Red Moon Press, 2003), Bernard Lionel Einbond has three versions of a similar poem interspersed throughout the text, possibly suggesting that each poem has independent value. The three poems, in order of appearance, are as follows:

peeling the apple
in an unbroken spiral—
year’s end

[p. 11; the book’s opening poem, thus one that is given emphasis]

peeling the apple
in an unbroken spiral
at years end

[p. 13; the only changes are adding “at” and removing the dash and the necessary apostrophe; the omitted apostrophe seems to be simply a typo]

peeling the apple
in an unbroken spiral—
winter afternoon

[p. 35; this version shows how the last line distinctly changes the character of the poem]

The first two of these poems seem like two variations of a draft (the missing apostrophe, if faithful to an original source, would suggest that the second poem was an unpolished draft). The third poem, however, is somewhat different in mood because of the last line, even if all three poems might take place at about the same time. As for the similarity, one may conclude that, because this is a posthumous collection, the editor(s) chose to assert no authority on selecting a best version (the poems in question seem to be new, rather than being “selected” from a previous book). Eileen Allman, in a brief introduction, quotes Einbond as writing “the rose at each moment/a different rose” (5). We may then ask, are these different moments? Or are they the same moment told in slightly different ways? Perhaps we are fortunate to see them all so we might decide for ourselves. The canon of haiku by Japanese masters includes poems in variations like this, but usually they can be seen as cumulative improvements or revisions, whereas in this case, especially when the book is a posthumous publication, I don’t think we can view any one version as supplanting earlier versions, or even know which is earliest, as we might with the Japanese masters.

Two other pairs of poems are highly similar to each other in the same book, the first pair of which switch the point of view:

Crestwood Lake—such calm
I must be back in Japan—
summer mist

[p. 43]

Crestwood Lake—
it must remind them of home—
my Japanese neighbors

[p. 45]

Aaron and Julia
grown up now—other children
feeding the ducks

[p. 47]

the children grown up,
waiting for their children
to come feed the ducks

[p. 66]

It may be best to think of these similarities as drafts rather than deja-ku, because of the posthumous context. My sense here is that the book collects poems that were available after the author died, and that the author might have picked just one version as best if he had still been alive. That is what I’d normally expect of poets—to be your own editor. In this case, however, we may well have a revealing window into the author’s writing process that we would not have had otherwise. Which variation do you like best in each case?

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