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A Thought for Today

To write it out is to let it go.

 

Dear Ken,

I enjoyed the Flight Plan of July 25th, which was a flight plan from the past (December 19, 1998), wherein you wrote the following about the way Rod sometimes revises his poems:


"Those of you who've followed Rod's work closely over the years will have noticed how he occasionally revises some of his work, sometimes years after they were written."

That old Flight Plan also contained a wonderful example of a revised poem.

I've always been fascinated by the revisions Rod sometimes makes to his poetry. I've often wondered what prompted the revisions, and what he was thinking about when he made them, other than the obvious reason, which was to make them better. I guess we'll never really know. I suspect it's quite possible that even Rod doesn't always know why. That doesn't matter though, because, for whatever reason, we're left with more examples of his beautiful poetry.

I wrote about an interesting series of revisions to one poem early last year, and I give it to you now. (Saves you a lot of researching, copying and pasting) *S* Perhaps the readers of the Fight Plans might enjoy watching the revisions unfolding over several years.

Enjoy,

Larry

************************

Here's a poem from the British edition of "We Touch The Sky" (1979). Rod reworked the poem considerably for the American Edition of the book which was published later that year--only the first two stanzas remained untouched. Of course a shorter version of the poem appeared in "Celebrations of the Heart", published in 1975, and yet another version in 1983's "Watch for the Wind".

On reflection, it might be more interesting for you if I were to post all four versions of the poem in the order in which the books were published, because each version is quite different.


June Flight

Airborne--free--
running with the sun
diving down the day
jumping through June--

Above the world
part of the shell
of some new world.

Now end over end
dipping with the down-draft.

Hold onto me--I'm falling
catch me--if I do
never like this,
never like this.

- from "Celebrations of the Heart", 1975

June Flight

Airborne - free
running with the sun
diving down the day
jumping through June -
Above the world
part of the shell
of some new world.

Now end over end
dipping with the down draft
hold on to me - I'm falling.
Catch me if I do.

Never like this.
Never like this.
And we are just beginning.
Together let us see
if the sky is real.
I don't know
if instructions have been left
on how to go about authentication
but your arms loose about me
seem a starting point.

I can feel
all other elements
and prove them true,
mathematically
and on a drafting board.
Why not your arms
as proof and witness
             of the sky.
They carry me aloft
when they encircle me.
I'm free while touching
just your forearm.

Stay awake.
We're flying now
and I've no clue
as to the pilot.
But it's true
I feel him here,
he lifts us both
on higher and higher.

- from the British edition of "We Touch The Sky", 1979

June Flight

Airborne--free
running with the sun
diving down the day
jumping through June--
Above the world
part of the shell
of some new world.

Now end over end
dipping with the down draft
hold on to me--I'm falling.
Catch me if I do.

Together
let us climb up
high enough to see
how much of heaven
               is reality
and what's invention.
Though no skybound ladder
                     yet exists
your arms loose about me
seem a starting point.

They carry me aloft
when they encircle me.
I'm free while touching
just your forearm.

Those fragile, gentle arms
like vines that wind around
the strongest brick or board
till neither's sure
of who's supporting whom.

Stay awake.
We're flying now.
Don't let go
       nor will I.
The earth has moved
         beneath us
now it's gone.

- from the American edition of "We Touch The Sky", 1979

(The fourth and final version of the poem is reproduced in the poetry section below).

So there you have it; an example of how Rod sometimes revises his work over time. I love all four versions of the poem. I do hope that this was interesting for you, or at least not repetitious and boring. *S*

Thought hugs,

Larry

Thanks for an interesting contribution, Larry. I remember your original post on the Board very well and I'm delighted to give it another airing.

To expand a bit on your topic, July was an interesting month for me. Prior to leaving on tour Rod selected all the Flight Plans he wanted to re-run while he was away and that included selections from this weekly column. As a result I had the mortifying experience of reading stuff I'd written months, in some cases years, ago.

Without exception I would, given the chance, have re-written every column. Wasn't happy with a single one. I think it has a lot to do with writing to a deadline; you do the best you can within the time available, then it's off to the printer, editor, webmaster, whoever. After the event, with the luxury of time on your side, the urge to tinker is irresistible.

So I quite understand why Rod revises his work as much as he does. My heart goes out to Jay, though. He's the poor guy who usually fields all the questions about Rod's work and it must be difficult for him to come up with the correct version of a song or poem when he has a number of revisions to choose from.

Thanks again for a thought provoking letter, Larry.

ken@mckuen.com is the address if you have a favorite McKuen song or poem you'd like to share with us. Write soon!

 - Ken, Johannesburg, October 10

Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays Antonio Bandaras o Bob Burnquist o James Calvelle o Dale Earnhardt, Jr. o Harry "Sweets" Edison o Bret Favre o Johnny Green o Helen Hayes o Ivory Joe Hunter o Richard Jaeckel o Mike Malinin o Thelonious Monk o Mya o Jodi Lyn O’Keefe o Harold Pinter o John Prine o David Lee Roth o Bob San Souci o Joanna Shimkus o Dallas Smith o Adlai E. Stevenson III o Julia Sweeney o Tanya Tucker o Giuseppe Verdi o Ben Vereen o Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Rod's random thoughts Let no one presume to write your history. Live it.

How do you write down secrets and make them not so secret anymore?

Chance is fine in a writer just beginning but pray that talent takes over.

JUNE FLIGHT

Airborne--free
running with the sun
diving down the day
jumping through June.

Above the world
part of the shell
of some new world.

Now end-over-end
dipping with the down draft
hold on to me--I'm falling.
Catch me if I do.

Or I'll catch you
as no one thought
to reach toward you
                  in the past,
airborne in the clouds
or flying stationary
         in each other's arms.
I would not ground you
or terminate your flight
              before its natural end
but I'll be here to catch you
free fall or in a mapped-out,
                              planned
designer's dive.

Why are we here?
Why together--not apart
or each with someone else?
It has to do with more
                            than love,
that is if more than love exists.
Each of us is here
                    to buoy each other
keep each other straight ahead
not mixed up inside a mid-June flight
without the sure control
of someone who can offer care
should one of us lose power
                     over breath or air.

Perhaps then
it is love beyond all thinking
the kind not said
            or put into a letter.

Whatever,
there are no downgrades
on this summer afternoon
only higher, closer fields
                           to play in
not as acrobats or clowns
but as lovers with comedic faces.

- from "Watch for the Wind", 1983

 
© 1970, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1986, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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