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 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…


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 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…


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