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 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 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 31 Edited: Smoothing Out Harshness

Poem 31 is a literal bitter/sweet poem about love. Bitter/sweet because the idea of fruit is an easy metaphor for taste and sensations. However, the language in this poem is a little too prickly and in the revised version I attempted to smooth that out. Let’s talk a little about how I accomplished that.

aPoem 31

So the original is a little accusationary (is that a word?) about the love and the loss and who was really to blame. I was in a dark place, let’s just say that. But the poem shouldn’t suffer for my present moodiness, so going back the idea was to remove some of that hard language in favor of wisdom.

Wisdom is always a better way to go. Don’t let your poems be sour, let them be airy with a remove that makes the speaker both sage and relatable. Sure, we all bust out poems in a fury, but those poems are hard to read and sometimes embarrassingly poor. Instead, the speaker in the new version is both held together and calm.

I took out words like blame, terrible and rot. I also took the focus away from what happens to the fruit when it was picked too early (selfishly) and made it more about the mistakes made by the picker (inexperience). Everyone can relate to both selfishness and inexperience, but one is less a fault and rather a growing phase. We all grow, so the idea that we hurt each other while growing is more humanist than the pain of a loss.

Loss is good, use it. But just remember that the way you use the influences of your life will determine how good and bad the poem ends up being. This poem needs a few more revisions, but you can see how much has changed in a short while.



In a time of pain there are always two directions, bitterness or airiness. Take airiness and see how your poems change when you give them a little wisdom instead of blame. This can simply be accomplished by changing the words used to describe the event. Keep Writing!

Poem 31 Original Poem 31 Revised

Poem 30 Editing: Second Person

This is a conversation I have with myself every once in a while that I thought would be good to share with you all.

aPoem 30

Second Person, what the hell are we supposed to do with that?

So my most common issue is when it’s best to use second person. I mean, there’s a reason that teachers brush over it in early writing classes (my mother had no idea what it was). Second person, or the use of you as the subject has long been an issue of mine. I love using it, and often I need to remove it from work because it is too aggressive. So for this post I want to make a little list about the pros and cons, and why it was actually better to add it into this poem:

Cons –

It’s aggressive maybe people don’t agree with or want to be part of that piece of writing

It accuses reader of doing or believing in the dogma of the piece

It limits the action to what the reader sees and knows of themselves, since they are subject

People don’t know how to deal with or edit for a subject that has fewer rules than the first or second persons’ that we are more familiar with


Pros –

Sets up a duality between the speaker and the reader, like a conversation or a monologue on stage

Makes the reader feel more present & involved, it is them after all

It feels more familiar like a party we are all going to, even you!

It cuts the character list by removing the need to introduce some random person, it’s already you, so now there can be more content.


Those aside (and I’m sure there are more for each list) I love using you. It feels present and pressing and casual. It makes the writing flow and gives me the room to make the conversation about us (the reader and I) rather than some third party person the reader may or may not get involved with.

For this poem the you was a natural change. The fever is already there, and the personal conflict felt more raw when it was a person, not just some body, and when that person was right here and now.


Second person is an amazing tool few feel comfortable using. With some pros and cons, the use of you as a subject instead of a third party or a first person, me, makes the poems more real and often more fun to read.

 Poem 30 Revised Poem 30 Editing

Poem 25 Editing: An Adventure at Sea

So anyone who has read anything I’ve written knows I am battling a fish. Not the great white whale or the Hemingway’s epic catch, but a fish of my own size, an identity crisis. Call it a spirit animal. It’s the cornerstone of most of my university poetry and held me back from some powerful conclusions in previous work. Like most things, the fish itself was more an idea than a conversation, so it was hard to break from when this editing project came about.

However, I will still attempt to kill the fish.

aPoem 25

This poem was part of a larger collection that involved ocean and sand as a two separate home places where the speaker (me) was torn between them, longing for this perfect ocean situation that was impossible because I was not, in fact. a fish. It was more an identity issue than anything else, which is flat.

I knew this needed work, it was just a matter of finding the direction. So here is my advice for taking a poem out of the dark ages and making it something readable. Things you will need:


1. a map there are so many places to go with a poem, but first you need some kind of idea what the landscape looks like. This poem, for example, needed more umph, but before I did that I needed to decide if this is about me or something bigger… and I in a neighborhood or a highway? This is the setting zone of the poem, the outline.


2. a compass, preferably an old fashion one with the rose all flourished and lovely. So I’m on the highway, great, but I could get really lost if i start due north and my ideal destination is south. So, was this poem about going towards the sea or away? This is the speaker’s direction, or the narrative of the poem.


3. some wheels.  This one seems silly, but it’s really the most important. On the highway, headed south, am I in a bike or in a car or in a truck? The pace, or the speed of the poem makes the most difference. Before, the pace was a fly by. First I was on the beach, then I was far away, but here I’m on the boat, feet in the water, falling (or diving) in–minute to minute, no rushing. My wheels here are a bike… and while I would never want to be on a bike on a highway headed south, it makes this poem more readable.


This poem has potential, not finished left, but has some more hope once I threw the fish back in the bay. Falling for a sea siren makes for a much better story than a lost fish with no hope of a true identity.


There are lots and lots of ways to fix a poem that needs help, just keep in mind where you are headed, in which direction and at what speeds. That way you’ll always know where the best changes can be made, and if you need to turn around and start over from there!


Keep Writing!

Poem 25 Revised Poem 25 Original