The Evolution of a Poem

This poem started with the idea that odors, aromas and generally smells unlock memories of moments that happened years ago. One of my in-laws has a green shed in which they store all sorts of things from yard tools to oil and gas cans. Whenever I stepped inside I immediately though of the old shed we had at the back of our property when I was a boy. I thought of the lawn mower I used to cut all the lawns in the neighborhood. The old paint cans brought back the memory of the time I helped a neighbor build a small fishing boat in his garage. From these memories the first version of the poem emerged.


The Old Green Shed

The first sensation when you stepped inside
Was what you nosed not what you eyed,
The old car's oil, the lawnmower's gas
The can of paint from two years past
The wetted wood with its mushroom scent
Together recall all the hours spent.
Inside the shed at the alley's edge
At the back of the yard just beyond the hedge.
So much depended on that old green shed
Where memories were born and then were fed.


At the time of its writing I thought of William Carlos Williams’ poem of the red wagon and alluded to it in verse nine because all of the preceding verses were there because of the shed, the memories too depended on the shed and what was in it.

At a writing workshop led by Silas House I chose this poem to work on. He brought to my attention there are eleven times that the word “the” is used in it. After writing the poem and all the subsequent times reading it I never paid any attention to how many times “the” occurred. After his observation I couldn’t help but see every “the” until they each stood out like boulders and started dragging the poem down.  So that evening I got busy removing the boulders in an attempt to make the poem stronger with fewer words.


So much depended on the shed,

faded green, hidden

at the back of the yard.

lawnmower, garden tools,

paint, working, hours

idle, hand tools, fishing poles

in the rafters, playing, sneaking

a smoke, a kiss

beside the alley.


I wanted to take it even further and as I went I found that not only was I changing it in looks I was beginning to like what it was saying. Its voice was changing.


So much depended on the shed,

faded green, with age

at the back of the yard.

lawnmower, shovel,

working, hours

idle, hand tools,

incomplete croquet set

playing, sneaking

a smoke, a kiss


Finally I came to the last version and found that in this poem it is not so much the smells that drive the memory but the shed itself. While I still like the first one even with the too many “the” I like the last one more because it is what the shed was, a repository of so much.


So much depended on the shed

out back, faded

yellow with age,

lawnmower, shovel,

working, hours

idle, hand tools,

croquet mallets – no balls

to play, to sneak

a smoke, a kiss.



Author's Notes/Comments: 

Let me know what you think. Thanks.

View michael's Full Portfolio
Morningglory's picture

I'm probably going to start

I'm probably going to start thinking all of my work not only contains I too much but the. Thanks for the insight to the process. 

Copyright © morningglory