A while back I posted a poem of mine called “I Am Alive”. I also posted a review of a book called “De/Compositions: 101 Good Poems Gone Wrong” in which the author takes poems and rewrites them to illustrate how the original poem works. I have challenged folks at Poetisphere to do the same with their work by taking a poem of their own and “de/composing” it.
Here is “I Am Alive” again, a poem written after 9/11. I will present the original and then “de/compose” it by rephrasing it with meter and rhyme to show how this poem feeds on its jagged rhythm and measure:
I Am Alive
I am alive
I soar with the spirits of a new generation
My voice rises from the ashes of my former self
And I sing a new song.
I am not the man I once was.
Then — I hid behind the insecurities of my former self
Now — my spine is broken and I see clearly.
I have lost much
Some may say that in losing I have gained,
Yet I know that the gain comes, not in having survived the loss, but in spite of it.
I am cleaner, purer,
I am burned beyond all recognition, charred, smoldering,
Yet all who see me call me beautiful.
I still struggle for meaning,
Every day I journey through all of the hidden piles of rubble and call out names.
And wonder why.
And here is my new version:
I Breathe and So I Manage to Survive (de/composed)
I breathe and so I manage to survive
while soaring with the spirits of this time
I sing, my voice is ashes, “I’m Alive!”
My body left beneath me, I remind
myself that I am not the man I was
I used my false security to hide.
My spine is broken, can I seek to judge
the terrorists who taught me how to glide?
You see I have lost much this horrid day
but I might argue that I’ve gained as much.
The gain, it comes not from my loss, I say,
but rather from the strength it takes to touch
my cleaner, purer, burned and charred remains,
some call them beautiful, but I still know
I will seek out the echos from the planes
and wonder why, no answering “Hello.”
So what do you think? Which one reads better? Why? Do you agree with me that the 1st one with its more jagged edge and lack of forced meter and rhyme allows for a more immediate response? Or does the second one build for you? What about word choice? Images? Does the more explicit 2nd version speak more than the more suggestive first?
And now it is your turn. Take a poem of your own, or take a poem of someone else’s (maybe another Poetisphere poet, or maybe a classic verse you want to try your hand at) and “de/Compose” it by rewriting it to point out the original’s beauty. Post the results here or at your blog…