Today’s poem editing is about rounds of revisions. This poem is a perfect example of a work in the moment. I went through a bit of a tragedy my junior year of college, and from that struggle came a plethora of good and bad poems. Some of them made perfect sense at the time; others were just my feelings in poem form.
This piece is one I was particularly fond of, but outside of that moment and those feelings, I can see that the message is a little mushy. This may be the case with a few of your poems, but don’t despair. There will be a time and place to revise and make them more reader-friendly.
I began this editing with three pens, because I knew it would take a few rounds of careful consideration to make it right. The red pen is my harshest criticism, because if you truly want to make a poem better, you have to get a little messy with the red pen.
I have a lot going on here… there’s a metaphor about a woman, death maybe… there’s me in a coliseum of criticism (a bit heavy handed for this kind of narrative) and then there is a man behind paper walls, I imagine those kind in Chinese houses… Before I can do anything, I need to pick one, because they don’t make sense together… If I want to have this quiet confessional intimacy I set up in the beginning I can’t be spouting off contradictory metaphors.
I want to keep the ‘love letter’ feel of the beginning. It’s not grounded in anything tangible and it’s not particularly inviting for the reader, but I feel that is the crux of the poem, and my emotions at the time, though it does need to be refined. Think of the pens (red, purple and blue as sand papers. Red is coarse, purple is fine, and blue is a buffer to make it shiny… If I can hack out more than is needed with the red, I can really start to refine with the purple… you can see that a little in the mark-up.
The ending needs some work. If I want to go with that idea of the paper wall man, which I feel is the strongest of the three metaphors; I need to develop it a little more. This editing session, and the paper itself didn’t really have room for that… I will be able to work that all out in subsequent drafts.
This poem was a mess because I was a mess when I wrote it. This will be the case for many of my poems and maybe yours too… emotions are like garlic, they reek through your skin and everything you do while you experience them. The trick is to leave a poem for long enough to be objective, and take out a little of that garlic as you go. Still a little cryptic, but much more relatable.