Poem 6 Editing

I love this poem. I was trying to work on another assignment during my junior year of undergrad and instead chose to procrastinate with a little poetry. I was able, as is often not the case, to capture a sense of rhythm with this piece that I always admire in others’ work. The use of repetition and structure carries throughout the poem in a positive way, while there are some minor elements that need attention.

The mark-ups are surface level here. This poem has seen multiple rounds of revisions which included a whole restructuring in its earlier stages. My goal here is to fine tune the imagery and establish a sense of I as well as they in order to solidify the solidarity of the narrator. Like a story, some poems have characters that need to be distinguished. Often this notion goes unrevised because a poem is beyond that kind of artifice. Don’t be afraid to try new things like characters, plot elements or even scene shifts in your work. If it feels narrative in nature, don’t resist that, use it to your advantage.

The abstract areas are those where the voice is lost to vague notions. These lines act as fillers for something more poignant. Bodies blurring, too quick to memorize implies little about the moment and at the same time generalizes the perspective of the narrator. Instead of those important poetic details that I mentioned last time, we get a blur that is too hard to memorize, which is also an abstract notion.

Here would be a good place for some color, some sensation, a smell or a sound. The other stanzas bring that to the table, the second stanza seems to hit a lull. However, you will notice I am not trashing it all together because there is that rhythm and the structure to remember.

In this case, I am going to only pinpoint the things that don’t work rather than cut and hack around the things that really work. This tactic should be saved for later revisions and is sometimes where writers hit a roadblock…

TAKEAWAY

A poem can always be edited. at any stage. Remember, in later drafts to distinguish the high and lows of a poem and methods of editing that doesn’t undercut the best part of a piece. In this case the missing sense of boundaries between speaker and environment helped me see where I needed to focus my attention. Step back and ask yourself if a later draft has hit a lull, and if so, where that lull might exist. Fine tune work is just as important as the big sweeping cuts you’ve seen me make before… every step of the way a poem can be tweaked… that’s my favorite part of poetry!

 

Poem 6 Revised Poem 6 Original

Poem 5 Revised

My Similar Soul–

Falls in love with other heard beats;
my long-lost bed-warming fish-hook
sends others to the cotton sheet corners.
My kitchen wants for burnt yellow cupcakes,
           and you.
All of my being wants for you,
but you, my Similar Soul,
find pace with other heartbeats,
lend advice to fresh ears,
lace impatient fingers with new secrets
           reminiscing often–you promise–of me.
           While I?
I fall in love with another soul,
less similar than yours.
–ECW

Poem 5 Editing

This is a question I hear all the time: You write poetry, huh, like song lyrics?

No, nothing like song lyrics. My best friend writes and performs her music and in the most basic fundamental elementary down-to-the-atoms way poetry is the opposite of song lyrics…
Poetry must stand on its own, it must bring a melody that carries through words rather than sound, it must be memorable without a rhythm to solidify its uniqueness, and finally (and most importantly) it survives on details rather than generalities.
My friend must make her experiences as general as possible to allow others to try them on and acclimate them to their own life. A song you hear is your song, about that time in college or when you took that trip. This is a skill separate from poetry, though it is just as difficult.
My poems must be specific, a reader should feel, smell, taste, touch and ache just as I did in the moment. A poem must be a tangible overwhelming truth, it also must be beautiful, memorable and realatible.
This poem has been edited before… the issues are in those details that no one will understand… The question becomes whether they add to the overall piece or if they alienate the reader too much. There is no perfect formula for this, you will just have to try over and over until you get it right…
That said this is also a personal poem, about a dear friend who shares many inside jokes and secret words with me… taking that out of the poem would deflate the meaning, but leaving it in ma alienate the reader… So the key is to make the message of friendship universal through our personal details.
Whenever I edit this poem I always worry about words like fish-hook and if burnt cupcakes are the items I really want to highlight… they are limiting in their relatability and yet contain exactly what I want to say about the friendship… There is also an underlying level of tension that reflects negatively on the comroderie that I always try to add to or clip out… I could edit this 1,000 more times and it will never be right… which sometimes means its done.
THE TAKEAWAY
Your poem must be about your life… When you struggle to write about something deeply personal, remember to balance those needed details with generalities that are universal. In this case, friendship is a universal commodity. While there is only one friendship like this one, the notion of secrets, a language all our own and details that are singular in their nature, there are millions of friendships that grow apart and millions of nostalgic readers who could relate to the ending of this poem… In this case it goes from small to big. As long as the universal and the singular exist in harmony, the poem is a success.

Poem 4 Revised

Fish

If the air was thick for fingers to run through,
The sun a yellow ripple in the tide
Then could a fish wander above,
Darting in and out of alleys,
Making coral homes of traffic cones?

Was there a fist that could not swim
But flay out fins for feet
And gasp of the lesser blue bodies,
Assail her gill-less swelling lungs?
Was there a fish who would not swim?
–ECW

 

Poem 4 Edited – Poem 4 Original

Poem 4 Editing

As is customary with my projects, life got in the way… I wish it didn’t, but I have a better sun tan and a revitalized drive to finish this editing… so here we go, poem 4.

This poem comes from a poetic conversation between Bishop and Moore, a literary friendship and jumping point for cross generational writing, that often gets overlooked in the canonizing of poetry… when I read their work I strove to write my own fish poem… through my collection you will find a stretching romance with the idea of fish and marine iconography, though this early attempt is rather drab…

I’ll begin with the blue note down below, be wary of when and in what circumstances your poem exists… this was written during the turmoil of the oil spill, and the verbiage shows, the best way to avoid that is to go back and edit with fresh eyes, little blemishes like that will be easier to see.

This poem, like the previous editing, hits a stride after the first two stanzas. Don’t be afraid to recognize that in your own writing and cut away the fat. Your readers will have short attention spans, and if a poem is only as good as its middle, they may never get there…

Finally, the form and the way that the lines move should be intentional. Note the purple aside about enjambment. Make sure that the highlights and quirks of every line are intentional, don’t fall on enjambment or rhyme or structure to make up for missing elements in the language.

TAKEAWAY

Remember to weed through the mess that is a first draft. This poem is clearly in its infancy, and if I hope to make it something more than a mere first attempt, I have to recognize the elements that are less than extraordinary… items like temporal elements (oil spill), clogged stanzas (1st and 2nd) and gimmicky rhetoric devices (enjambment and structure) hold back the overall piece and must be removed… the difference between a good poem and a bad one is removal of these flaws, the difference between a seasoned poet and a novice is their ability to recognize and overcome their own poetic issues.

Poem 4 RevisedPoem 4 Original

Poem 3 Revised

Listen

Below letters
Beneath words
Seeking the mellow, yellow-green
Found softly fluttering
Southward through fields of cut grass.
bowed stocks of feathered dandelions
Words seek flight
Broad, taught sparrow wings
The wind whipping, fluttering flitting
Stripping worth, weight value
Voices seek words
Find letters. Deep puckered
Lips gumming nonsense
Hollow pockets of air
Sucking bubbles from seaweed bulbs
Floating up. up. up
Hush, the quiet comes
A breath across the bending stocks
All kneeling north with the
wind, under the weight of whim
Flightless feathered dandelions,
Only weeds.
–ECW

Poem 3 Editing

When I look at this poem I can still remember the thoughts going through my mind when I wrote it… I was apprenticing Wallace Stevens as part of a poetry writing course and I was struggling with his subtly. By the end of my studies with his work it was clear that we may never write on the same wavelength.

Lesson number one here is to never give up on old work. Whether it was a class homework or a writing exercise, there is usable material everywhere. Just because that first day you didn’t see potential doesn’t mean it should be trashed, or worse filed away to discover 10 years from now when the passion is gone…

Going from top to bottom I’ll point out a few key points to consider:

1. The title is one of those ‘on’ poems that you will see throughout my collection… it might have been relevant for several works but not whole chapbooks… ‘on’ became a titling crutch for me. Discover your own crutches and identify them. By knowing what we lean on we can become more conscious writers, which is the whole point of poetry.

2. Every poem, and written work of any kind, balances verbiage with temperament. By that I mean quite simply that sometimes the words do not match the feel or sense of the poem. Sometimes they are in harmony and other times they are playing different chords. Know what the poem is doing on both sides and work for better congruence. Please don’t confuse this with how something is being said… that is a word issue…

In this poem, the issue of finding inspiration is overshot with visceral violence that fails to portray the journey… in my notes I describe the struggle as a silent one rather than a violent one… keep this in mind… make the words and the cadence of your work both equal partners in a poetic piece.

3. You will notice that whole lines are crossed out at a time. This leaves large sections open to new writing… be wary of this kind of full scale overturning of stanzas… just because it fixes issues now doesn’t mean they are perfect, the editing process begins all over again once something new is added… Like a virus sweep, you run it until your computer is clean, not just once…

TAKEAWAY

This poem, though I loved the earlier draft, needed some serious work. Remember to keep an eye out for the pitfalls you recognize in your own writing and edit edit edit… Breaking your own habits is key to developing new skills… good or bad a habit can become a crutch, and a crutch will limit your potential every time… Instead of habits, develop rituals; unlike habits that are stationary (like my verbal tick for titling ‘on’), rituals like editing or handwriting or retyping or inverting poems are part of a process. These lead to better final pieces. This blog is my ritual, by editing I can break those habits that I’ve picked up over time… what will yours be?

 

Poem 3 RevisedPoem 3 Original

Hey Hey Today!

Dear followers, 

Something amazing just happened to me. I checked an old email account that I thought I had been forwarding to my new email and it turns out I have more readers than just my mother. I found several unread comments, it made my whole day!

Thank you for sticking with me! I have been hard at work editing the old poetry and I am excited to show you all the progress… though it may take me a while to navigate the scanner. 

I was just explaining today about blogs and how it feels like you’re on center stage with not a stitch on and the house lights are on so high you can’t tell if it’s a full seating or just your mom clapping absentmindedly to your monologue. 

So thank you thank you thank you thank you for all the support, I’ll be bringing you new writing and tips asap!

Keep Writing!