Poem 74 Editing

Nothing like a poem with a little bite.

I got a little dose of Internet bullying on a site many visit for poetic review; a Utopian community of constructive criticism that is not so ideal in practice. From that, I noticed a few notes on inspiration I thought I would share here about this poem.

First, there is nothing like a good fire. There’s not much that will replace that initial spark to write, so always be ready, pen and paper, yada yada yada… more than that, be ready to take every idea and make it meaningful. We all can’t write in our fish phases every time. One of my biggest challenges as a writer was to break from my own control and deliver something meaningful beyond my limited experience.

Second, a poem needs a little time to gather itself. When I first wrote this it was sharp. Your edges are barbed with the reality of your own experience. I had a few professors in college talk about the gestation period a piece needs to be viable. Whether it’s poetry, fiction based on real life or a blunt non fiction piece, there are things that will smooth with time, when the personal sting has subsided. Those things are the depth, the universality, the meaning.

Finally, you’re talking about something else. There is an old joke in literature, where everything is a metaphor for sex, and sex is all about isolation. I’m pretty sure Freud came up with that one, and like his other work it’s a little obscure. But the idea that you are writing something bigger than the surface is, of course, the reason many of us pursue writing. Here’s the twist. You often don’t know what you are writing until you get a little time between you and that fiery inspiration. Give yourself the opportunity of a few feet and see the truth behind what you are actually writing about. Then edit like your life depends on it. Be better than the original inspiration, the teeth in your truth and give us something to remember.

It seems absurd. But take what you get and make it great, then give it a minute, and see what it was all about the whole time.


Your poem is a scratch card waiting to be revealed. Remember to keep the most open mind possible. If you write with limitations, your poem will be bound by them. Just write. Just write and write and write, and be angry, and wild and clever, and foolish and liberated and young, and sage and strong and simple and strange. Be everything, be a writer, and then, when you’ve given it a little time, be an editor.

Because the most important part of poetry is spinning gold from straw.

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