The creative process is often described as a process of discovery. As the writer delves into the specifics of the creative work, revisions and other changes are inevitable. P.K. Page, while writing her poem “The Hidden Room,” made several significant changes that affect the way in which the poem is read and interpreted. In particular, the relocation and eventual deletion of the first stanza of “The Hidden Room” alters the way in which the reader perceives the poem. In the end, “in the final draft, Page discarded her opening stanza, which explicitly locates the “room” in a dream” (Wallenstein and Burr 119). The effect of this decision changes the feel of the poem from the familiar to the mystical.
In the initial draft of the poem, the first stanza clearly places the “room” in a dream. The use of these lines as the opening stanza sets the tone for the entire poem. The poet firmly establishes that the poem relates to a dream or possibly a series of dreams. This tells the reader that the “room” in the poem is not quite real. It is only a part of the dream and no more important than any other dream might be. The poem that follows this stanza is well crafted and reflects the inspiration of the poet, but the presence of the original first stanza relegates the beauty of the poem to the realm of the dream, the realm of the improbable and the fantastical. The first stanza is lovely, but it establishes the poem as ordinary.
In later drafts of “The Hidden Room,” P.K. Page moves the first stanza so that it becomes the last stanza. The effect of this decision is substantial. Without the immediate presence of a stanza that clearly places the rest of the poem in a dream, the reader is drawn immediately into the poem. The poem has an almost mystical quality about it as the “room” is described as if it actually exists in the world. The “room” could almost be a physical place where the poet goes on a frequent basis, but “only when it permits [the poet]” (Page 3). The “room” is certainly real enough for the poet. The reader is gently pulled into what might be the imagination or the creativity of the poet.
In this draft of the poem, however, the first stanza has become the last stanza. The reader encounters the idea that the entire poem, and the “room” itself, is located in a dream after having read the poem in its entirety. After establishing the “room” as possibly a real and powerful place, the poet shatters this illusion for the reader simply by leaving the “dream” stanza at the end of the poem. The reader discovers that the magic and mystery of the “room” is nothing more than a dream. The poem that was mysterious and mystical becomes as plain and ordinary as any other dream.
Before the poem was finalized and eventually published, the stanza setting the poem in a dream was removed completely. The final draft of the poem makes no mention of a dream at all; the word “dream” does not even appear in the published version of the poem. The decision to remove this stanza from the final version of the poem has a profound effect on the impact the poem has on the reader. The deletion of the stanza in question allows the “wide variety of images” (Orange 1) present in the poem to take hold in the imagination of the reader. Without that particular stanza to indicate that the entire poem was simply a dream, the reader is allowed to retain the feelings of mystery and mysticism “The Hidden Room” evokes. The magic of the poem is not spoiled by any indication that the poem may just be an ordinary dream or a part of a larger series of dreams. The “mystical quality” (Wallenstein and Burr 119) of the poem is enhanced simply by making no mention of the original first stanza.
In the published version of the poem, the final stanza does not specify that the poem is a dream. “Will not know it as prism / a magic square / the number nine” (Page 28-30) indicate the speaker’s fear that the reader will not understand the significance of the “room” and so will not fully appreciate “a secret space” (Page 21) that is highly valued by the speaker. This implies that the “room” is real and solid to some degree and not as flimsy or insubstantial as a dream. Instead, the “room” is something substantial that can be seen by anyone but possibly not recognized as special.
The first stanza of the published version of the poem is also not what Page had originally intended. “I have been coming here since I was born / never at my will / only when it permits me” (Page 1-3) sets the mood of the poem. The reader is immediately exposed to the mysterious and perhaps mystical “it,” though what “it” might be remains unclear until later in the poem. This stanza draws the reader into the poem, almost seducing he or she into reading further to discover what the mystery of the poem will be. The idea that the entire poem is a dream is not likely to enter the reader’s mind. The poem retains its sense of mystery and whimsy.
The final published version of “The Hidden Room” contains “strong visual aspect[s]” (Musgrave 95) that are unspoiled by the implication that the “room” is a dream. As P.K. Page both “witnesses and creates the vision” (Orange 33) of the poem, she makes decisions regarding revisions that greatly affect the overall tone and message of the poem. Page’s decision to remove the “dream” stanza from the final version of the poem allows the majesty of the poem to remain intact for the reader.
Orange, John. P.K. Page and Her Works. Toronto: ECW Press, 1989. Print.
Musgrave, Susan. “The Hidden Room: Collected Poems by P.K. Page.” P.K. Page: Essays on Her Works. Ed. Linda Rogers and Barbara Colebrook Peace. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2001. 94-8. Print.
Page, P.K. “The Hidden Room.” The Hidden Room: Collected Poems. Vol. 1. Erin: The Porcupine’s Quill, 1997. 11. Print.
Wallenstein, Barry, and Robert Burr. “P.K. Page.” Visions and Revisions: The Poet's Process. Peterborough: Broadview, 2002. 119-35. Print.