Poetry Friday: Embracing the roughness of rough drafts

If you’ve followed this blog for more than a few months, you know I always like to promote the concept of #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading…in other words, if we’re supposed to dance like no one is watching, then we should write in exactly the same way:  with fervor, abandon, and intensity, without regards for perfection or polish.

One need not write for the purpose of publishing, after all. Writing can be cathartic, therapeutic, and often simply fun! So no matter what it is or what it looks like, write. And if, like me, you’re writing something you do intend to have published, you can always apply some spit and polish once it’s out and on paper.

When should I write? Now. Where should I write? Here. What should I write about? Anything!

Today I’m sharing a few very rough drafts. Why? To show that not every poem is perfect upon its initial creation…and even when it’s finished, might not ever see the light of day.

Some folks I know shudder at even the thought of sharing an imperfect work, so as not to sully their name or be connected to something beneath their ability. I, on the other hand, recognize that we’re all human, we all have to start somewhere, and we’re all capable of writing really bad crap; I’m just being a little more honest about it!

Up first: a rough draft from almost 6 years ago that took nearly a month to finish. Now, considering this poem is only 6 lines long, I should have known I was belaboring the idea – but I wanted to complete it, and complete it I did. Has it gone through any more revisions? Nope. Will I be revising it anytime soon? Nope. Was it a good exercise and a good use of writing time, even if it’s not a very good poem? Absolutely!

Up Too Late

My head is so heavy;
my eyes are so sore.
I really don’t mean to be boring.

I’m terribly tired
and wish I could sleep,
but what’s keeping me up…is my snoring.

– © 2012 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

I recall being extremely tired when I started this…and it certainly shows. Good for a chuckle, perhaps, but that’s about it. Oh well, at least I got my brain thinking poetically and rhythmically, and would be in a better position to work on the next poem. Because once the muscle has been stretched and used, it’ll be better prepared for more work.

Oh, and that “next” poem – “Wall in the Woods,” which I wrote just a few days later – went on to be selected by the NH Writer’s Project for display in downtown Concord, NH as part of their Poetry in Windows project!

The second poem I’m sharing – of a more adult nature – was another one that took far longer to write than it should have. And even after completing it, folks I shared it with still weren’t sure what was going on:


heavy as these letters
and as uneven
wait, never ceasing or easy,
as the deadline for disclosure

– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

To be perfectly honest, I don’t even know what I was getting at. But when it comes to rough drafts, the parts are much greater than the whole: my brain associated heavy and uneven breaths with heavy and uneven letters, it found internal rhyme with ceasing/easy and disclosure/approaches, and alliteration with deadline/disclosure. So although this poem will never go anywhere beyond this little blog, it allowed my brain to practice some poetic devices with an adult theme…and we all know what practice makes, right??

The final poem I’m sharing is one I just wrote yesterday, as a response to author/poet Laura Purdie Salas’ weekly 15-words-or-less poetry prompt on her blog, Writing the World for Kids.

Every Thursday, Laura posts a photo and a very short first draft of a poem inspired by that photo, and encourages her followers to write their own poems – which, as the blog states, need to be 15 words or less. This forces one to use word economy, but it also prevents one from feeling the intimidation of writing line after line after line. 15 words ain’t much, but they’re enough!

A round bale of hay, yesterday’s photo prompt

Hay…blankets…seasons…sustenance…these were the common themes in many of the poems that were shared by Laura’s followers. Nothing at all wrong with that, and many of them were quite good – but as you may know, I often try to find an avenue no one has gone down, so here’s my response (with a couple of extra words I added to smooth it out):

Love Goes ‘Round

You misunderstood,
I’m sorry to say –
this is not what I meant
by a “roll in the hay.”

– © 2018, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Not bad, not great, perhaps a bit clever – but not clever enough (or good enough!) to ever go beyond its intended role of flexing my brain. Which it did, for the 2 minutes it took me to write! But doing this sort of thing every day – writing for the sake of writing – is inherently beneficial. So please, when you have the opportunity to write, don’t worry if it’s going to be good or bad…just make sure it gets written. #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading, even if you never read it again.

For more poetry, head on over to Reading to the Core, where Catherine is hosting Poetry Friday today! Oh, and by the way…

…if you’re in the New Hampshire area and wondering how to break into the world of children’s lit, I’ll be at Bookery Manchester for a special evening discussion about writing, poetry, and the business of it all, plus a short reading and signing! It all starts at 7pm, so I hope you’ll join us!


Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)


Thank you to everyone for your support!


Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

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16 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Embracing the roughness of rough drafts

  1. lindabaie

    Inspiring post, Matt. I feel sometimes like I mess around too much, yet I also have a lot of fun in the doing. Your envelope poem really is intriguing!


  2. Thanks for sharing these, Matt. I read so many gorgeously written poems each Friday, and sometimes I’m a bit intimidated to share my own. It’s great to see someone be brave enough to share their not-so-perfect–yet, works in progress.


  3. Great post Matt. I think as writers we can be very hard on ourselves and expect both perfect fist drafts and that everything we write will be published. But visual artists sketch in all the time, and sportspeople train all the time, so it stands to reason we writers should be writing whenever we can and not expecting every piece to be the one.
    FWIW, I love all three of your rdafts and think the sleep one could be a great fit for a humorous anthology or similar.


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