Poetry Revision: Growing a Seed (featuring Arthur Rimbaud’s “Sensation”)

None of the revisions I’m going to use in this article are necessarily “bad” or by any means “incorrect.” One might argue that each has its merit—even the simplest of them—but I’d like to argue here that simpler poems are sometimes the seeds to still greater poems.

I’ve taken Arthur Rimbaud’s “Sensation” and broken it down into a much simpler rendition of my own. Of course, I’ve done this only in order to mimic one approach to revision that I find useful. These are not a reflection of Rimbaud’s creative process.

Let’s start with my over-simplified rendition of the poem:

I will walk down this road,
Dreaming on a cool day.

Thoughtless, in love,
Nature will make me happy.

This isn’t bad at all. Though it lacks originality, it’s sensible and pleasant. Thought it doesn’t necessarily stand out, it does stand on its own.

However, what I’d like to do is to take what I’ve got and revise it a little. While keeping the original ideas and sensations, I’m going to expand upon them a little:

I will pass along grassy roads,
Dreaming with a cool breeze in my hair.

Thoughtless, overflowing with love,
I will love Nature like a woman.

This is better: an image is starting to take shape with the added sensory details. Moreover, the speaker’s love for Nature is more relatable now that it’s been compared to his love for a woman. But perhaps the ideas/images are still too contained here. Let’s add some more lines:

I will pass along roads in the summer,
Pricked by wheat, trampling short grass:
Dreaming, I will feel the cool breeze
On my bare feet and on my bare head.

Speechless, thoughtless:
Love will flower from my heart,
And I will wander through Nature—
As happily as with a woman.

Now we’re getting somewhere: the image becomes much easier to visualize with the prickly wheat and the short grass added to the road. And the breeze is much more tangible now that we feel it against the bare feet and bare head of the speaker.

The expanded second stanza reads smoother as well. The pause between the first and second line makes the state of the speaker more poignant. And a slightly more visual interaction between the speaker and Nature is introduced with the verb “wander,” as opposed to more abstract verb “love” in the revision prior.

However, I’m going to let Rimbaud finish this one off:

“Sensation” (translation by Wyatt Mason)

Through blue summer nights I will pass along paths,
Pricked by wheat, trampling short grass:
Dreaming, I will feel coolness underfoot,
Will let breezes bathe my bare head.

Not a word, not a thought:
Boundless love will surge through my soul,
And I will wander far away, a vagabond
In Nature—as happily as with a woman.

by Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

Afterthoughts:

Rimbaud was very capable of writing much longer poems, so why did he stop after only two quatrains?

At what point do you know when to stop revising?

2 thoughts on “Poetry Revision: Growing a Seed (featuring Arthur Rimbaud’s “Sensation”)

  1. Interesting topic. I tend to write straight off the cuff and that’s how they lie. I might be interested in picking apart some of my older poems from a few months ago and seeing what I can do with them, now I have gained some valuable experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Glad you brought this up! Sometimes those poems written off the cuff are perfect just the way they are. The spontaneity and grace of one’s natural voice does the job. Too much revision and you risk alienating your own voice.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Liked by 1 person

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