Poem 66 Edited: Remote Editing

Hello Readers,

Here is a good example of a poem which made a 100 degree transformation in the name of a better idea.

Poem 66

Sometimes there are poems that start out one way and basically need to get naked to improve. Like taking a shower. Except of course that shower is going to get rid of all the junk in the poem and not BO, but maybe a little of that too. So this poem, like it says above, this was from reading a lot of Virginia Woolf. And while I LOVE VW with all my heart she does make me a little dark. So the idea here is growing together. The subject in the poem above is having issues with that togetherness, it brings her down. The subject in the revised version is having a fine time, as a mangrove instead of a victim, the togetherness feels more natural and less forced.

This brings me to my biggest challenge as a poet these days. Make the poem a positive experience for everyone. In the past my work has been a little stark, having shocking images and sometimes fringe subjects in terrible situations. I think this was because I was changing, growing, finding my voice. The old joke in poetry, at least amongst my friends, has been about that angsty teen poetry that makes the world feel aweful and dark and sad. I think mine was not too far from that category, using more complex words and deeper themes, the sentiment was similar.

My goal with these projects has been to smooth the poems, but I never really defined that. So here it is. This poem is the perfect example:

A moment that makes a poet write a poem is vital, but not all poems are vital to that moment. We are at the mercy of the muse, but that experience is ephemeral, unlike the poem. 

The goal is to make the poems transcend that initial spark by making them more than th moment and better through the process of Remote Editing. (Remote Editing being the process of letting a poem sit for a year and returning when the moment is long gone)

It’s a Process.

For this poem, the process is vital for making the real crux of issues find a better entry point: through wisdom rather than passion.


Poems change because the poet changes. That’s why we edit. Never take for granted the power of a good long second look. The results will suprise you. Some poems never change while others make a giant leap into new territory. Don’t fret. The poem will always be moving toward its best version, the job of the poet and later the editor, is to make that better state a waking reality through concentrated changes and open mindsets.

Keep Writing!

Poem 66 Revised Poem 66 Original

Poem 65 Edited

Poem 65 I love, but there will still need to be more editing, the end is a little flat and the delivery, though better than before, could be whittled a bit more.

Poem 65

Poem 65. There are so many revised versions to this poem. Most of them were lost on my notes from college as a result of poor organization. Could I go back I would make 2 changes to my poetry plan as a student:

1 – be more organized and diligent about revising in the moment and not waiting until the assignment or the book is due.

2 – take the time to gather all of the drafts so that changes could be tracked and I could maybe go back if I got stuck. 

There was something desperate and fast about college poetry classes. Most of them had only a few assignments, so when push came to shove I stalled them to be more studious in classes like science – ugh.

As a result there was a rush at the end. Not only were there all sorts of papers with all kinds of hand written notes but there was no time to collect them together. When we were at the end of a deadline I was more inclined to just turn out the best poem I could as it was, so inevitably, the versions were lost.

All that feedback, all that middle drafting, just gone. What a shame. If I could go back I would always have saved them, maybe scanned them, maybe made notes on all the suggestions. This poem was a class workshop poem, an assignment poem, a submission poem, so the feedback was diverse and well thought out, and now it is lost to the universe, hopefully I recycled it.

That doesn’t make this version any better or worse than it might have been. Nothing is lost that is not regained eventually, as an artist I believe this with all of my heart. This is just less pensive. Less thought out, less considered. As a poet of process I like the idea of feedback and connected drafting. For me, this poem feels a little like the progression of humans over time. All these missing links and no way to really reconnect them, only thoughts and ideas on what might have been between.


Poems with lots and lots of drafts have a more complicated process that might bet lost if organization is not a priority. For me, the lost drafts are a casualty of my former messiness. For now, the poem is better than ever despite any lost versions. The poem will be whatever it wants to be eventually, as long as we all keep editing, those drafts will be a shame but not a tragedy.

Poem 65 RevisedPoem 65 Original

Poem 59 Edited

Twins. Poem 59 has a TWIN. 

Poem 59

I am all about this new idea I am mulling over. Twins. That a poem can be two things at once, that in its progression, an idea can occupy more than a single space and yet grow in similar or opposite directions depending on circumstance. Like human beings, the poems have relationships with each other that not only depend on all three dimensions (words for 1 dimension, space on the page for the 2nd dimension, extra-ness for the 3rd like images and commentary) but also time, the real life 4th dimension that has real and tangible consequences on the writer.

Twins, in my body of work, so far, represent the growth of what I will call a writable-idea, something that is both tangible and relatable, but also heady and philosophical. That’s just a fancy way of saying the worthy subject of a poem (note, anything is worthy of a poem as long as it is approached in a poetic manner, that manner of course is the challenging bit we poets love to muddle through). Fleshing out a writable-idea takes lots and lots of thought, both conscious and subconscious. So, as a result, i find there are doubles in my collection from similar times and of similar topics that could nearly be paired together in sets. I won’t go that far just yet. In most cases one is much stronger than the other. The second twin, not by time but by maturity, almost always answers the questions posed by the first twin in their corresponding approach to a subject.

Bla. Bla. Bla. Basically, when I try to write about something I care about it comes out twice. Once iffy and then much better. The twin idea is something I am certain is not a singular phenomenon. I know from college that there are poets who experienced this (Whitman, Moore, Pound, Eliot, Bishop, Yeats.) The poems that get published by these writers all seem very singular and perfect, but go back into their works-in-progress letters and editing and you will see an internal dialogue through the poems they wrote earlier, a duel between twins. Or perhaps the birth of two queen bees in a hive, fighting to become the monarchy.

This poem needed more editing, but it also needed to break from its twin. The two together form a powerful bond, which will be reinstated later, I am sure. First, they must grow apart and reach their own potential lest they be bound together in this draft state and never improve.



Twins. The phenomenon I am only just getting my head around because I happen to be going back through my whole collection one by one. In essence, the twin effect appears when two poems written in near succession are mirrors and informants of each other. More powerful together, they demonstrate writable-idea in converging ways that reflect on the idea itself and the time they were written. Some twins will come closer, others will break apart, though all instances are evidence that writing as a process is a dynamic flowering arc.

Poem 59 RevisedPoem 59 Original

Poem 55 Editing

Poem 55 is a poem that went through some growing pains. A lesson I think all poets need to know:

Poem 55

Poem 55 had the opportunity to see a review from a visiting JMU-grad poet on his book tour. His advice was simple, and mirrored the advice I had recieved in class all semester: Cut the top 

but then upon his second reading he paused and said: Nevermind. I Like It. I don’t know what I would do. 

Everyone felt that way. Even me. The top was highly figurative, it had little grounding imagery and leaned on lots and lots of tired metaphors and similies. The trouble was cutting something that on most second reads, the reader felt was important to the poem.

But what’s important, if it needs more attention than most readers are willing to promise. The sad truth about reading is that most people don’t have a second read. If it doesn’t have a first-read-stick, then be honest, does it work?

I love the first part, but when I finally made the needed cut the poem grew into its own. I could find a good title for it and make some small adjustments that were hard to see in the blaring distraction of the first section.

To be fair, the first part has some good pith (pith being the thoughtful stuff that makes poems wonderful) and so there’s no reason not to cut it up and use it somewhere else.

I had tried a variety of presentations in order to keep the top: Italics, crossed-out text, parenthesis, small and hard to read words that showed something came before. They were no good. There was no good way to present bad information. So don’t. Let yourself delete it!


Poems are only as good as their weakest link. Like everything else, they depend on all parts being equally strong. When a line of a poem or a whole section is not good enough, the poem suffers as a whole. Don’t save bad lines. Delete them, let yourself overcome the lesser parts of your writing, and see the real revisions and changes the poem needs to be great. By keeping the section for as long as I did, I missed more sophisticated changes and had trouble making a title. I thought this poem was about grief, but it was really about my dad. Had I been afraid of change I would have missed out on some serious wisdom. Don’t be afraid, take back your poem!

Poem 55 RevisedPoem 55 Original

Poem 53 Edited

Poem 53 was stuck, so I started over.

aPoem 53

Form and Function. Make sure your form is functional. Make sure the shape makes sense with the content, and the poem is the sum of your shape and content, and not just a wacky shape.

Be open minded but not absurd. That is sort of my new motto. I went through a phase of more adventurous writing but the effect was hard to change and evolve. When the form gets strange, I find, the poem is fixed in it’s first draft.

I am not very good at the form poetry that came into vogue a little time ago, taking control of the page and using space like design. Though I crave design, I find the poem suffers when I get too crazy about it. I think, for me, the writing falls into the space it recieves. Like social media spaces, like email spaces, like paper spaces. The poems I write on a compiter are longer, faster, and better thought out than the ones I write by hand because they are easier to get on the page and my handwriting doesn’t slow me down. (I never learned to hold a pencil quite right and my hand gets cramped quickly when I write by hand).

These poems, the crazy ones, are a result of less control and more experiment. I think, maybe, when the poem is final the shape shoudl be applied and then the idea can be cemented.


I basically had to start over, not because the poem was bad but because it was stuck. I think maybe some will come back, but for now the new content will serve as a jumping board for a better poem in general. For me, the shape is sometimes a limiting element, and in later drafts I will try to resist shape until the end.

Poem 53 RevisedPoem 53 Original


Poem 52 Edited – Holy Holy

Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! – Allen Ginsberg in his Footnote to Howl

aPoem 52

This poem needed some Holy. This poem needed a lot of everything, but instead of retiring it, like poor Poem 51, I decided to give it more power in reference to a poem far beyond my league.

Holy Holy.

The reference process is a little touch and go. I will not get onto my long drawn out soap box about the literary conversation and all the things that make every poem connected to everything else, bla bla bla… if you really want to hear all that comment below and I will be sure to bend your ear.

In this shorter commentary I will simply detail a few potholes about the poem world that are becoming issued as the new, less read generation, rises to their feet.

1. No one memorizes poems

No one. Not even the english majors. Now that everything is on the internet, we read more and dig a little less into our favorites. Not that we don’t have favorites, but there are more pressing things to do than memorize lines. We can just link them.

Instead there will be more power in referencing the more memorable bits of poems outright and footnoting those parts that are harder to know off hand. For this one, the Holy sort of spoke for itself. So I left it. Maybe later I will make it more visible, but for now I hope they stand.

2. Embrace markings

If you want your reader to take the extra step and see a reference, make it seem like a different piece of the poem. Repeat it. Italicize it. Mark it with a dash. Put it somewhere strangely on the page. The interested reader will take the time, but only if they sense that there is something else other than just your words. There will be so much power in your reference that gets lost when you don’t distinguish it from anything else.

3. Give Up the Struggle

So what if no one knows you referenced Keats’ little-known play in your sonnet about love and loss. The point is depth, the point is conversation, the point is reverence. Someday, someone will see that for what it is. Like letting a bottle message into the sea, your hope is that someone finds it and begins their own adventure. If you wanted someone to get the message right away you might as well have sent an email.



This poem was a mess. I needed much more change and freshness to come in and take out the stale. The heartline–that first line–stayed the same, so I feel the point is intact. However, these tactics are strong ways to give the poem an outside reference point. References can make or break a poem and a poet so read well and remember the changing landscape of the poet and reader will affect the way you write for the future.


Poem 52 RevisedPoem 52 Original

Poem 51 – Retired

Hello All,

Here is another example of a poem that maybe needs some sleep. I am not sure how it got into this list (i’m not super organized) but find it to be below my current standard of writing for my collection.

See a previously retired poem here – Poem 27 Retired

aPoem 51

So let’s talk a little about this poem. Poem 51, written about my favorite tree at JMU was placed on the filler page at the end of a book I was pretending to read for some feminism class, but was more a distraction than an art piece. The best thing to do is grab lines that work well as just lines and keep them for later. You can see with the +’s and -‘s that those lines stand out starkly against the rather flat repetition.

Retiring is important. It signals a poem is no longer a strong piece of your collection and designates an offical action for it that you make within your lifetime. Don’t let lingering poems happen to you! For more on that idea see Poem 27 Retired, and I’ll give you my whole shbiel.

For this poem, the reason is simple. With over 130 poems to look after, there’s no reason to keep this one alive if there realy is nothing going on, no big picture. Sure, an argument could be made for a simple childhood expose, or some kind of success imagery, or betterment, or togetherness, but it’s pretty flat, so why not take the best few lines and make something dazzling.


There’s nothing wrong with giving a poem it’s getaway, and it makes you a stronger writer for knowng when to let it go. Always look for ways to make poems better, but if you are holding on to a few lines, or maybe just a good idea, cut your strings and save it for another day, it might suprise you how lovely those pieces sound in some other poem.

Poem 51 Original

Poem 37 Edited – Give Every Word a Job

My best friend is better at money than I am. She says, give every dollar a job. I think that idea can be lent to poetry, due to its smaller word count and its intimate complete-ness.

aPoem 37

For me, every word is vitally important. Not only does it take the place of a perhaps better or worse word, it informs the moment one bite at a time. Let me explain. In fiction there are lots of words, sometimes they are redundant, sometimes they are off in tangents. Those words would be unwelcome in poetry, not because they are not good, but because poetry is a much smaller house. Think of a mansion vs. a cottage. Poetry needs to be more selective to ensure all the words at the party are good guests… maybe this metaphor got a little away from me. 🙂

However, the idea works well for a poem I otherwise love whose words were getting a little lazy. I changed words like lived and phrases that were basically stagnant for ones with much more umph!

These change gave motion to a poem about moving, and gave life to a poem about living. Show don’t tell is a good mantra here. But if you are more money-minded like my friend, the every dollar (word) needing a job might help you see poems in a new light


Poems are the smallest of gatherings. Every word needs to be important, every word needs a job. If this were any other type of writing it would be easy to hide a few extra words here and there, but in poetry each is vitally important. Give them all a function, or kindly have them exit.

Poem 37 OriginalPoem 37 Revised

Poem 36 Editing – A Rough Cut

Hello All,

This is an example of how poems can get a little out of hand. For a good rule of thumb, if you don’t remember what a section was about, or what inspired it, consider strongly removing it. That was the situation that caught me with this poem. The back end was a mess, and while there were some strong moments, it was better to just gut it and give it new life.

aPoem 36 aPoem 36b

So poem 36 came from a real experience, and to give that experience justice I had to take a lot out of the me-ness and make it more poem-y to bring back life. No one cares about my weird relationship, especially if there really is no real reference and just vague mush.
Avoid mush at all cost!

To achieve that I focused on two things: 1 – focusing on an element, in this case exams and how they may not be happening so why bother preparing for them

2 – I also beefed up a stylistic element, enjambment, to give the poem a little more pop.

So enjambment is the use of a split in a line that would be otherwise whole. Natural enjambment makes for a logically flowing poem. The line breaks at a pause in a sentence or a pause in thought at least, making the reader comfortable to read as if they would speak.

Here, the enjambment is a total mess. Not only is it unpredictable, but it also rewrites the previous line. A visiting poet told us, in a class I took at JMU, that there is no reason to enjamb unless there is an exact purpose for the use. Otherwise, the convention is becoming passé with young poets and its use will soon be cliché, so use with caution and drive.

Here that is most certainly a consideration, and hopefully put to good use. As my rules go, there will be lots and lots more ways that the poem can change, especially since the new material opens me up to tons of new revisions. But it’s a thought since it needed desperate help.




If a poem seems too daunting, try a two-pronged attack: pick a focus and a technique to breathe new life into a poem that seems dead. The two ways of reimagining the piece will help you see new opportunities for change and give you a solid guideline for what is and is not important.

Keep Writing!

Poem 36 Revised Poem 36 Original

Poem 34 – Editing for Final

I love this poem. It has been a cornerstone of most of my recent submissions, from the MFA application to a chapbook competition, I think the lofty haze it offers the reader is a strong demonstration of my work.

aPoem 34

Things I love about this poem

How short it is

The language

The imagery

The haze

The dream-like state


Things that still might need some love

The half filled cup thing

The library, should I come out and say it?

The title, is it awesome?

The dreamers, should I show them more?


Nonetheless, I will be trying to get this poem published until I die… or someone takes it. I love the flow, the haze, the simplicity, the readibility. For now I will call this finished and let that be it.




Even when poems are near or mostly finished, there is still room for improvement. Keep in mind the things you love and are unsure of in the pieces you consider finished in case you ever want to crack them open again. There are lots and lots of ways and opportunities to edit, even the poems we deem done.


Poem 34 FinalPoem 34 Original – Poem 34 Postcard