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.




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 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.




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 13 Editing



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.



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 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