After that form discussion I hope everyone is a little more in tune with the shape of their work. Shape is really important. Along with the title, it’s your poem’s handshake. I’ll be honest, I’ve passed up dozens of poems during my scholarly and independent reading because they looked like a mess, or the lines were too long, or the poem was 1,000 pages and I wanted to be finished reading it before I got hungry again. These things are important when you consider the changing mental scape of your readers.
In the 21st century, readers are accustomed to flashing advertisements, bite sized stories and ‘snackable’ information (no joke I learned that in a class for my Media major… snackable is a real thing). Your goal is to be more readable at first site… think of this as your poetry’s sex appeal… get their attention and then they’ll want to know your personality. It’s silly but true. The mind has a limited tolerance for condensed literature like poetry. You could read novels all day long but a poem is exhausting. Don’t add to that with a ridiculous structure, unless you’re going with some ee cummings madness and in which case it better be good!
All that said I want to apply some of that forms discussion from Poem 7 to this poem here. In the same sense that a poem may be limited by a form, a stanza-patterned poem might also be weighted down by its weakest link.
By now you have probably guessed I will be trimming from the top. I know that my work needs to be shaved from the beginning because it takes me a while to get going… keep in mind that you might need to crop the end because you ramble, or snip some of the middle because you tend to hit a lull. Knowing your own issues will help you edit more efficiently.
So I’ll cut the first stanza… spruce up the middle and then deal with some racially charged imagery that I didn’t know was there when I first wrote the poem. Sometimes we are limited by our own perspectives, and editing helps with that tremendously…
Each stanza has four lines, each line is of a similar shape and there are even some slant and full rhymes peppered throughout to make the piece feel whole. This has been edited quite a bit, and even so, I am sure I could go through and pick out the weak lines that are depending on that four line structure to carry them through. These lines are dead weight on a piece, just like that first stanza. If it isn’t adding anything unique or profound to the poem, cut it or revise. Like the form, don’t let a pattern limit your greatness.