Poem 23 Editing

This is a Texas Chainsaw Editing Massacre!

Poem 23

This is the perfect example of how there are great gains to be earned by really letting go of any inhibitions about a poem. There were about 3 lines that I really loved in this poem (written for my dear roommate EK on her abroad trip) that I felt important enough to keep. Sadly, this poem is not about her anymore and the effect is a little more drowsy. There were places for growth and lines that really made no sense at all. There was nothing connecting the middle to the ends and even though this was a poem written in my “experimental phase” the cool factor of my randomness faded with a lack of wow. Nothing really held it together, like a sandwich made of lint. A novel idea but pretty underwhelming when made in reality. I was pretty proud of this at the time, another reason to always look back and at least check a poem before touting its genius.

 

Some part of me was in love with the idea of this poem. But there was nowhere to go from here, no way to edit words or phrasing without unraveling the whole thing like a rug. Poems like this are trouble, they seem odd and clever and fresh at first, but that’s pretty much their only bang. They are like sparklers, bright and lovely and short lived. Then they are empty of gunpowder, hunched and expired. This is the problem with experimental poetry. It’s a skill and a craft, true, but there can be no real editing and no real growth without making major changes. Some of the time, yes, there can be bettering of the poem, but small superficial changes are the only marks I have ever been able to make on the poem.

 

I can remember loving the poems of ee cummings and the funny quirkiness of silverstein. These poems shaped me, fascinated me and in my later years eluded me. There was nothing I could do to get close and when I tried there was only broken poems and mismatched sections. In this poem, though I love it in a selfish sense, the restyling to my more comfortable spoken-enjambed-flow to make room for later and more fruitful revisions.

 

TAKEAWAY

 

Try new things, please, that’s the only reason to write, really. There are sometimes good attempts and bad attempts. The best thing to do with those attempts is to look at them honestly. Sure, I love this poem, it makes me feel racy and hipster and removed, but it hit a dead end. I made a few revisions here and there: updated a word or two, changed a line break. There’s nothing new about that. I found in this revision that nothing could be done with the original that was new, and instead there was some hope in taking what I loved and making something new. Chainsaw ho!

 Poem 23 RevisedPoem 23 Original

Poem 23 Revised

When it meant something to have an ivy covered house, home

Was the yellow corners of my father’s family album

Worn down with recounting the birth of the youngest, at one a.m.

The death of their smallest, twelve minutes alive,

It was a memoir I hoped to write down in departure

traveling away from here, traveling anywhere

 

When it meant something to have an ancient surname, my house

held the left hand of my mother, the guiding light held tight

Through rooms I knew from her stories, in houses that belonged

to other people now; would see as we were passing through.

Here is where the chair sat that belonged to your grandmother

My mother was forever with her hand in mine, unwinding our family-lore.

 

I filed the grooves in my house key down to the gloss,

Lost the scent of my window boxes and potted flowers.

In the towers casting hand shadows in a window haze

In the crooked cobblestone margins where it meant something

To have an ivy covered house home

Is a moving target.

—ECW

Poem 23 Edited – Poem 23 Original

Poem 20 Editing: A Brush-Up on Critiquing

So I’m not positive how this one got into round two (since clearly it is not that great nor has it been edited, ever—whoops) but it’s a good time to talk about poetry conversation in general, and I will use this poem as the example. There is basically nothing special about the original but there are lots of places to improve, so I want to update some ideas I have posted here about the ways in which to best attempt a conversation (critique) of a poem.

Poem 20

In school we learned 1-3-1, a process of talking about a poem that included things to keep and things to revisit. This was not a criticism nor was it a way to make the poem better by consensus (which sometimes happens in workshops when the commentators are too bossy and the poet is a little shy) but instead it offers a whole view of a poem, making a little circle from positive to negative back to positive. I have found this to be a good tool in both business settings and tutoring sessions as well as classrooms where I first saw it used.

 

In this poem I would critique as follows:

1 – the leading line is fun and playful, setting the tone of the poem as well as making the theme transparent and accessible.

3 – a —The repetition is not necessarily memorable, and may need to be tailored and even pared down to make room for more concrete imagery

b — Monsters might be a little charged of a word to choose for the subject. There are lots of connotations that come with that verbiage and they may not belong in the poem.

c — clothing, being the central mode of the metaphor, can be fleshed out a little more to allow the clothes themselves to add content rather than just the stickiness to the wearer. Though this is a strong idea the visuals could use more colors, textures and shapes.

1 – The idea of watching oneself on stage is a strong and well established idea about acting and makes a good backbone for the poem.

 

Whether reading others’ poems, helping writer friends with their projects or weeding through your own blog posts and narrative endeavors, remember to always give strong feedback in the form of suggestions instead of criticism. Opening and closing the comments with positive ideas reminds the writer that there are still high points in the writing and encourages them to improve rather than quit right then.

 

TAKEAWAY

 

Nothing makes a writer better than truthful, kind feedback. Kind, being a word to describe the delivery and not the content. Be as harsh and raw as you feel necessary, but always remember that someone wrote the things you read and someone took care and effort to bring those words together. We are all readers and writers in some capacity; we are also sometimes out of our comfort zone and need a little cushion.

 

Keep writing and keep the conversations in your life alive, they might just make you a better writer!

Poem 20 RevisedPoem 20 Original

Poem 20 Revised

Curtain Cat-Calls

 

Play players play

Romance me with a chest lead

Left stage in a heart-beat

I can see the zipper—from here.

 

Evoke a trope so troublesome

I’ll shrug at strangers and laugh—wildly.

Come! Defile me with your imitation

Is that how I sound when I ruse?

 

Collapse your curtain like a floor bound robe

Let’s be naked together, stage

Play dirty thespian tricks while I’m not watching

And laugh wildly—laugh wildly at me.

—ECW

Poem 20 EditedPoem 20 Original

Poem 13 Editing

Image

 

This poem is also a royal pain. This is the twin poem to yesterday’s post, Poem 10. So as a quick recap, twin poems are pieces written relatively near each other that inform the other in some way (usually non intentionally) and can help the true intention of the poem come to better light. For example, this poem went with the other because they are both about self-discovery, they focus on a flowing repetition and are free form and loose. My editing will try and make them tighter and more intentional, if that is possible. Same as the previous editing, this poem has seen lots and lots of versions and has had so much work done it could easily live in Beverly Hills (kidding).

 

Instead I want to focus on repetition and why the marked up version is a poor demonstration of working repetition. First, repetition is not the enemy. There are lots and lots of reasons to have a poem repeat, including but not limited to: style, emphasis, flare, contrast, rhythm, interest and tone. These are all perfectly good reasons to repeat correctly, though sometimes there are issues with the repetition structure itself that can bog down the intent.

 

Here is a good steadfast rule for repeating, which will inform some of the changes I made today. Your poem must be 40% concrete—always, sometimes more. 20% can be commentary or reflection, which leaves 40% (or less) for the repetitive elements of the piece. That means that less than the concrete and brainy bits can be the rhythm or stylistic use of repetition. Before, I had about 10% concrete, 30% brainy/fluff (sometimes the brainy bits come out as dryer lint, don’t let this happen to you, edit quick!) and then a whopping 60% was repetitive phrases and throw away statements that locked together to make some sense of dull trance. It was not exactly a prize winner.

 

The issue was in the ratio, but also in the choice of content. To make a poem a strong repetition piece the concrete needs to be super solid. It was a paper flimsy mess to begin with, not a good start. This poem will need more editing for sure, but the loss of some repetition and the addition of some concrete imagery was a good start.

 

TAKEAWAY

In my early writing stages I avoided repetition and my poems were less then memorable. Once I made my peace with repetition my poems became only repeated phrases and fluff. To reel that in, my new approach involves looking at the poem as one whole pie, where the sections work together in their importance. Obviously the identity of the poem will be in the imagery and not the repetition, but the repetition will add to the personality, so it’s rightly important. Finding that balance will take time and careful observation, but for the quick editor try and stick with this ration: Concrete 40%+ Commentary 20% Repetition 40%-

Poem 13 RevisedPoem 13 Original

Poem 13 Revised

cycles

 

she thought she could be beautiful if only

she could decide

what beauty was and was not

afraid of rabbit holes and conversation lulls

speak more candidly, sharpen your arrow tongue

maybe you’re afraid—so be it so be it

 

she knew she could decide beauty was

if only with a scrap of paper;

water & pigment

—oh—and a brush

but that would be hindering…

a meddlesome fall dries the colors to their leaves…

to paint them why cant they be everything at once

 

isn’t true beauty potential,

the potential to be everything at once

I want all the colors at once I once

knew a girl with an eye full of sun drops and cancer in her bones

cut her canvas with a house key and set

mixing the oils with her fingertips—

if only mixing was enough

like sex to beget the baby, forget the baby or the potential of a maybe

the acting graces are beauty enough keep going, don’t worry keep going.

 

I thought I could be beautiful by watching the sky

and tracking the hurricane negotiations from the shore

close enough to hear the thunder chuckle

opened my eyes to lightening and was blinded by

color—light was everything at once.

 

I tracked the stars in the sand with a walking stick

made their maps dance in the valleys of my footprints

told the truth of their location and nothing more

was that not beauty enough

is said of ideals and most are untrue

the tales of lions dancing in the heaven crest

all the rest is black, like the inner side of a resting eye

with the tide quieting the constellations

the sea is black with possibilities

it may be anything, at once.

—ECW

Poem 13 EditingPoem 13 Original

Poem 10 Editing: Begin Phase 2!

So anyone who has been following my work will remember that there were a couple dozen poems that were skipped in the original editing project because of their special status. I am finally getting to the first section of those poems, the preferred poems. They were preferred at the time because they were either much better than the other poems or they were heavily edited for projects and would need much more consideration to edit them any further. This poem, among the other ones to come from this section, is a huge pain in the ass: because I love how it is now and also because there are lots of changes from the original in different places and bringing them all together would be tedious.

 

We all have that poem, lots of people have seen it, we have plenty of suggestions on all different drafts, we’ve made revisions for this project and that submissions, but they weren’t the same revisions and not on the same document. It’s a pain, especially if that poem was workshopped in a class and you now are sitting on a dozen hand-written revision-suggestion copies in all kinds of crazy illegible illogical handwriting. It’s a poetry nightmare, but you love the poem. So you piece together all the good ideas that came from its many phases and now have to deal with your Frankenstein.

 

Poem 10

This is my Frankenstein. Poem 10, formally known as Open to Interpretation {new name to come in next revision} is perhaps the hardest poem I will ever edit. (Though Cycles, it’s twin poem will be equally awful to unravel). Poem 10 was written in the back of a textbook about an abroad trip I took where I saw a way of life very different from my own. The idea behind the poem is to capture the duality in all of us, the capacity for a full experience or a sweet one, that are not always but often mutually exclusive.

I hate the ending and have written it 100 times over, with no luck. The use of pounds was really just to take the reader out of dollars, but it plays nicely with weight and I was deflated to see that it was not really used at all as a duality of language. I made some bigger changes but really just slimmed down the language and repetition. While I was originally going for trance-like winding verse and stacking repetitive ideas, the effect was clumsy and rather drawn out.

In fixing this poem I noticed two things about the poems in this second section that I am sure many other writers deal with:

1. The poems that I wrote with purpose are often locked into their original form.
Even now I was not particularly inspired to break away from the stanza sections or make something radically different of the structure. I just changed the words and added a little more imagery and less fluff. To get to the heart of this poem I will need to do a little more demolition.

2. The things I thought were clever before are rather ordinary.
It’s no secret that people change. We grow out of phases and gravitate toward other interests. The same rules apply to writers. That was a cornerstone of taking on a project like this, the idea that there were things in my poems I was no longer charmed with and it was time to upgrade them as a collection. I loved the way the poem was so frank about ice cream before but in this last read it made me curl my toes a little. We need to update the poems we are still working on every now and then so they don’t date themselves in time or stale in our collections. With the internet all is possible; don’t fret over cheesy work, it can be saved!

This poem needs more editing and a new title, but hopefully the changes are evident and you can see a little progress in the process!

 Poem 10 RevisedPoem 10 Original

 

Poem 10 Revised

{Title Forthcoming}

 

I found one hundred pounds but gave it all away.

The money is hyperbole: I lied to

Keep a copper pence coin worth half

A slice of bread borrowed from a roommate.

I’m not behind the lines drawn in the kitchen

Yours & Mine

One hundred pounds won’t be spent on flour.

 

We left our silhouettes in alleyways.

Ate our way through creameries

Melting sticky fingers remember cotton-paper

currency can be dry with possibility; might be

everything might be anything at all

where we’ve wandered the poverty

trading bread and ice cream

Fullness & Sweetness

Bread: lines in a sandwich are walls around a mouth

Sugar cream makes mockeries of these geometric boundaries

Maps mark the lines to and from, not yours and mine

 

Dug up one hundred pounds to hide away

The money was knowledge, but you try telling

Readers collecting memories in dog ear’d novels

As the story grows in throes,  the body rows

Some passages whispered, others on a podium

Most wooden men are soapboxes shouting

From street corners in idiums about

Lost currency on concrete. Beauty

Marks our misfortunate faces. How Beautiful

A morning with a pocket’s painted possibilities.

 

Wander with me, and wonder

If fullness or sweetness decides

the stationary philosophy we stamp for the post.

It was a ghost, littering the streets with gold

And we sowed our wild oats in the mortar.

Through the egress of an average existence, with

One hundred pounds on our backs, all we ever had.

—ECW

Poem 10 Editing Poem 10 Original

Diary of a Dancing Goat – Chapter 2 Preview

Hello Readers: This is the first section of Chapter 2 of my ongoing novel-project. I thought it would be nice to put it into the world and see what happened. I hope many of you can relate and enjoy. This is a DRAFT and will therefore need lots and lots more EDITING, so nobody panic if it doesn’t read perfectly. As a poet, I plan to scower over every word. But for now just let it wash over you like a good hot cup of Joe. 

 

coffee3

A Cupful of Joy

I’m kicking my feet wildly. Small tufts of dirt are lifted from below my heels and brought to the air as offerings. The sun, my only deity, is pulsing from his perch in the white sky. I am kicking my feet with vigor, with the energy of ten thousands nights asleep and five thousand fields grazed. I am a dancing goat with a throat full of cherry red fruit I have never tried before.

 

There are many legends of the origin, or more so the discovery of coffee. The origin is the land, long before it was crushed into animal fat or brewed over a rolling boil; it was the sprout of a rainforest seed, weeded among the roots of taller trees. Coffee was fabled to be the discovery of goats, who danced so vigorously their shepherd, Kaldi, tried the hearty bulb himself. News of a god seed traveled quickly. It was monks who crushed it, roasted it, drank it before their daily prayers. It was a religious experience, first with the earth and then with a more formal god. But the seed, the blackened bean born of flames, was the true god. And his perch in history is prolific and permanent.

 

Tea totes a more delicate story. One of an emperor resting below a tree sipping piping hot water, the leaves of a breeze rustled branch mingle with his cup and he is enlightened. Better than Newton, whose falling apple locked us in a universe of perfect but rigid formulae; the falling faith of emperors opened the cosmic eye and turned it to the soul. Tea and Coffee came across with the sea on trade ships and with them chains and whips. They, among other exotic commodities of the freshly colonized world, wrapped the growing population in an unquenchable thirst.

 

It was neither the goats nor the king who bound us in these ropes. It was a misunderstanding. It was a misuse. It was a machine with a mouth eating away the land and wrapping the ankles of an eager age to a knotted and overgrown nest of twisting roots. We are knocking with our hooves at the door of knowledge but we get only sugar grains: the modern latte. Two decades after I was born my lips met the burning bitterness, the smooth consolidation, the frightful bite of an addiction built of love. It was real espresso. Not a latte, not a roast. It was the espresso blend Authentic Coffee Shop hid below layers of sweet and foam. It was a love/hate. It hurt to take it in. A short shot, piping hot and harsh. Flashing into my nostrils and corners of my mouth where my molars are most sensitive. Involuntary outbursts of a howling tongue are nearly necessary. It steals your breath, it tears your eyes, but it returns the favor in richness too hearty to deny.

 

Coffee. Tea. Chai. Mocha. Java. Latte. Café Au Let. Crème Brule. French Vanilla. Caramel. White Mocha. Matcha Green. These words are meaningless to the average consumer. They are tickets onto their favorite café ride, a far cry from the bean and the leaf ten thousand years in the making. It is a shame. In their naked state they taste crisp and honest. Coffee Black awakens the senses, sparks a furnace deep in the belly, churning a burning heated hearth. Jasmine tea, an ephemeral perfume steeped for a mere moment can drive away the weight of any reality. Suddenly alone, atop a grassy hill beside the first tea tree, twisted with the path of the passing day, and dusting the landscape with effortless fluttering leaves. The scent comes first. A powerful humbling whisper from a simpler time. So few experience that joy, for it is a joy and not a need.

 

People need coffee. A woman came wandering into the shop one afternoon when the rushes had died down and there was time to share a frivolous conversation. She was draped in hand woven cloth, worn as a shawl displaying the dancing figures of elephants, giraffes and goats sewn wildly with sequins and tinsel laden threads. She looked to me with a trail tired face and asked about the origin of the coffee. I began with my scripted explanation but she stopped me. Is it organic? She wondered, since she was vegan and only consumed foods that the earth sanctioned. I nodded. Yes, I told her, all coffee is organic, at least from Authentic Coffee Shop; we have our own fields and our own treatment facilities. She sighed and readjusted her shawl to absentmindedly flash a pointed shoulder. I will take a cup, please, large and hot. I began my second list of questions. Would she like room for cream or a flavor powder in her coffee? Her eyes widened then settled into squinted wisdom. No, no, just black. If you add anything to coffee it loses its medicinal properties. Too many people live to eat instead of eat to live. I had served one hundred caramel lattes that morning, fifty mocha blended lattes, two hundred coffees with cream and seventy-five chai lattes. And this woman wanted her coffee black, because she knew its secret truth.

 

I am no prophet—here is no great matter. Coffee is more when less. Most customers had never tried a shot. Never had black coffee, were afraid to sample even a sip. Saying it was too bitter, too burnt. But that was not the coffee, it was the roast they were tasting, smelling, hating. And again and again I would promise there were other options. We offered light roasts and dark roasts, espresso blends and medium roasts that were neither bitter nor burnt. There was no convincing them. They had tried coffee in college out of desperation. The discount barrel of coffee they over-brewed at work was awful and therefore so was ours. So much stigma. I could have never reasoned with them. Most people who drink coffee hate it, and that was just that.

 

So why do Americans alone spend billions on coffee? How can the industry of the bean span hundreds of nations and drive millions of lives? The answer is simpler than you would imagine. Addiction. First to caffeine, which is not even the main factor, affecting the victim with headaches, moodiness and inability to concentrate. Since coffee is sold on every street corner from coast to coast, in drive through burger joints and gas stations, in bistros and dive bars apart from the cliché café, the consumer need only pick their poison to keep the need at bay. Then there is sugar. Most drinks consist of liquid and some sugared flavoring, account for the main part of daily calorie intake, though few consider them meals. Sugar, arguably as addictive as heroine, requires the victim to consume more and more to quench the ache. Some customers, myself included, consume several coffee shop drinks in a day, racking up calories and fueling a need for more to feel like a treat. And then there is the final and, in my opinion, the most addictive drive. The experience. Walking into a coffee shop is thrilling. The warm hazelnut browns and the bakery-sweet smell of vanilla wrap the visitor in a comfortable cloud of homey belonging. Perfectly coordinated merchandise, menu configurations and crisply-dressed smiling baristas welcome them by name to create a fulfilling personal escape from their dull reality.

 

It’s not the caramel in their hand they crave, sac religiously sweet sauces mingling with toasty espresso and creamy frothed milk; it is the jolt they need to finish their chores and the escape they crave from their underwhelming jobs and love lives. The coffee shop is a pause in an otherwise fast paced and miserable existence. Whether that existence is university exams with no sleep to spare, or a bottom level job that has yet to pay off. It is a drink moment, a coffee run that America lines up for at 7 am. No matter the drive, the caffeine-sugar onslaught is just a small side effect of getting away. But they aren’t going to a field of frolicking goats dancing in the midday sun. They aren’t going to the solace of a shaded tree in the silent breeze if a quiet afternoon. They are falling back to the places they spurn, an over-sweetened often burnt out cup full of emptiness begetting another and another. An artificially induced commodity built to train addiction in a ginger-bread house of hearth and heart promising happiness if only just another drink can be downed. People need coffee, the faded flower-child told me. I knew it already. People need coffee; they just don’t enjoy it much anymore.