Notes on “The Danse Macabre”

I chose to publish The Danse Macabre without comment, so as not to distract from the impact of it by revealing my processes. But now that it’s been out there for a bit, I can’t resist the urge to share about how it came together.

For one thing, I’m immensely proud of the fact that I wrote the poem completely unaided. It was entirely conceived, crafted and completed using only my brain. No computer, no dictionaries (rhyming or normal), no thesaurus – just me hacking away at the words using pen and paper.

I forget where the title and topic came from. I just remember that I heard or read the words “danse macabre” somewhere, and it sounded interesting. The rest sprang from my current, dark muse.

Here is the first draft of the poem. It starts out exactly the same way, but you’ll notice that it started off in a very different direction:

The first draft of Danse MacabreAnd here’s the last draft – I made some minor changes while typing it into the computer:

The final draft of Danse MacabreAll up I had about 11 pages of drafts, working notes, scribbles. I must admit though, my handwriting has become extremely lazy as a consequence of doing almost all of my writing on computers, and often resembles a backwards form of Arabic more than English!

It’s hard to say whether my choice to forego technology affected the outcome. I feel that it’s about the same – in terms of how long it took to get from conception to completion, and also how my brain is almost as reliable as a dictionary in providing the words that I’m looking for (maybe I’m biased towards using words that I know than the ones that I don’t).

How would you rate Macabre compared to my other works?