A red whiskered bulbul (before/after)

A red whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus Jocosus) c/- Pikist.

A red-whiskered bulbul (before)
head back calling 
in the evening 
in the neighbour’s olive tree —
‘wee-whit-h-h-h-h-who’ , ‘wee-wee-h-h-h-h-twuk’.

In all the wide chorus,
it was only this particular 
that lifted the gloom
I’d been feeling all day.

Come see, I called 
but when I looked again
only grey leaves, 
green fruit
and a bird-shaped hole,

A red-whiskered bulbul (after)

from the neighbour’s olive tree 

of all the evening chorus
only this particular
lightened the gloom
I’d been flowering all day.

come see, I called

& when I looked again
only the certainty of bitter fruits 
vivid against the grey gnarl  
& your song-shaped hole

Image: A red whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus Jocosus) c/- Pikist. Tonight, I’m hosting the bar at Dverse, the poets’ pub and we’re doing an exercise in editing. The before poem was written back in 2018. The after version has been edited – to sharpen word choice and discover some new ideas in the poem. Let me know what you think – and join the fun over at Dverse from 3.00pm (US EST) Thursday September 10 .

And to cheer us up, here’s Husky with Saint Joan

17 thoughts on “A red whiskered bulbul (before/after)

  1. When I compared the poems, I preferred the second version of the first stanza, ‘full-throated / from the neighbour’s olive tree’, which made the call more strident and immediate for me. I liked the first version of the second stanza, which made the human more ordinary than the bird. I love the second version of the final stanza, when the human directly addresses the bird – I love the ‘certainty of bitter fruits’ and the ‘song-shaped hole’.


  2. Second one is much more succinct which might make one think it would have fewer details. In reality, the details are much more visceral in the second. I love that the bird is now described as full-throated. And I especially like the idea of lightening the gloom you’d been flowering all day…..light and gloom seem opposite, yes…but then the addition of flowering makes it really come to life…for me to understand it better.


  3. I truly enjoyed reading the first poem, or rather, first draft of your piece. However, I find the final draft to paint a more evocative scenery and picture as to what is happening in the poem. The beauty is of course subjective as to which version is more impactful, but I believe the second one is. Excellent poems, they are both vivid in different ways. ❤


  4. This is incredibly gorgeous, Peter! I love both versions 🙂 but personally feel that the second is breathtaking! 💝

    “only the certainty of bitter fruits
    vivid against the grey gnarl
    & your song-shaped hole
    remained.” ……… WOW! 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The key thing for me is the addition of the word “forgetting” which adds a whole new layer to the poem for me. It suddenly became a poem about loss and bereavement – I don’t know if you intended that, but that’s what I got.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In the revision, I like the first stanza. The same with the second stanza, except for “flowering.” I think “feeling” works better. “your song-shaped hole” in the last stanza is a great revision.


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