Word Choice Within Revision

Here, we discuss two examples that depict the process of choosing the right word and the effects it has on the poem.

Version 1.1 of “The Gasoline Sportcoat”<br />

This is the original version of the poem "The Gasoline Sportcoat" by Stephen Dunn.

Version 2 of “The Gasoline Sportcoat”<br />

This is the second version of the poem "The Gasoline Sportcoat" by Stephen Dunn.

Version one: The fact is,

it’s a damn sportcoat –

it’s supposed to get a man through the social day, and it does.

 

Version two: The fact is,

it’s a damn sportcoat –

it’s supposed to help get a man through the day, and it just about does.

 

As can be seen above and in the picture, in version two, the change is the addition of the words “help” and “just about”, and the deletion of the word “social.”

In this line, the speaker attempts to dispel the magical connotation surrounding the sportcoat. He says that it is simply a piece of cloth that lends him enough strength to get through the day. In both versions, the meaning is the same but in by changing a few words in version two, the tone of the poem becomes much more poignant.

The word “help” lends the line, and as a result the entire poem, a more humane tone. In comparison to version one, it shows the speaker in a weaker state. This is because, the word “help” makes the concept of dependency of the speaker on an inanimate object, sharper. Also, by the use of words “just” and “about”, the speaker admits that all the coat does is barely makes the day tolerable.

Again, the deletion of the word “social” shows the speaker’s dependency on the coat in much focus. The phrase, “get through the day” shows the struggle in a much harsher light than the “social day.”

Version 5 of “The Gasoline Sportcoat”<br />

This is the fifth version of the poem "The Gasoline Sportcoat" by Stephen Dunn.

Version 6 of “The Gasoline Sportcoat”<br />

This is the sixth version of the poem "The Gasoline Sportcoat" by Stephen Dunn.

Version 5: With it, I’m able to explode

At certain deserving people,

Those, say, with little head colds

Who claim they’ve been through hell,

Or who impose on us

The other place, Jesus-ing

 

Version 6: With it, I’m able to explode

At certain deserving people,

Those, say, with little head colds

Who claim they’ve been through hell,

Or who impose on us

The other place, Jesus after Jesus

 

In this example, we see a combination of addition and replacement of words. In version six, the word “Jesus-ing” has been replaced by the phrase, “Jesus after Jesus.”

Through these lines, the speaker criticizes the “people” who preach and who claim that they are more knowledgeable about life than him. He says, that they “impose” their thoughts and religion on him, unsympathetically. In both the versions, the meaning is the same, but in the revised version, the religion has been turned into a human concept.

Repetition of the word “Jesus” gives the sense of tiredness on the speaker’s behalf. It makes the “certain people” seem more “imposing” and hence, the speaker more annoyed. Also, the word “Jesus” instead of “Jesus-ing” throws the speaker in a more cynical light. It is clear that he does not believe in God and his atheism is harsher in the revised version.