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

Postcard Poem 12 – Wish on a Fish

Dear readers,

I enjoyed the first postcard so much that I made a second one. This poem has been deemed finalized in the early stages of the editing project (now on phase two). And in making this second one I evoked the use of typography to distinguish the different voices in this poem as a conversation.

There are two clear voices in this poem. The question and answer format comes through only via the second voice, a believer of sorts who explains the situation in a unique light. The changing fonts are not a mere exaggeration of the high points of the poem but also a demonstration of a second conversation, happening outside the page. The voice repeats implied questions as a simple serif font while the cadences of exaggeration can be seen in the typewriter, script and brush fonts. Now whether the speaker is speaking to his or herself, a book, a listener, a group or an apparition is not to be revealed. but in allowing the type and spacing to play into the poem a new perspective can come to the forefront.

OR maybe I’m reading into it. You be the judge. Emjoy and Keep Writing (or Designing, whichever you muse decides!)

Poem 85 Editing

Welcome to the Tree Phase

I laugh about my fish phase all the time. It came from a personal reading of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and grew into a personal call to life. I found that most of my earthly experiences correlated closely with swimming and water movement. Of course it didn’t hurt that I was training for a black belt at the time so I was swimming laps everyday to keep in shape. I think poetry often echos out mindsets, but also the things we find valuable. The fish phase is something nearly comical in the edits I do here, because so many poems fall into that category and often I was just leaning on ideas and tropes I had established in my own mind.

Though I chuckle, it is not necessarily something to be scoffed at. Having phases in your work establishes your art arch. Like Picaso and his colored phases, there is a separation and a growth there, distinguishing freshness from sage. We are to cherish our phases, but not be limited by them. Sometimes fall back on the fish, but it is more with respect than as a fall back.

This poem marks the beginning of a second phase, the tree phase. The tree in this poem appears in half a dozen other poems and is a tree that I cherished beyond all others. It was a beacon of hope in an otherwise dark time and held together friendships and love with a grace I will never understand. It was the only tree I could climb on the quad at JMU and it made its way into my senior pictures.

But the tree is a myth of course. As time passes, the tree like the fish will fall into metaphor. For this phase, I can already see a nostalgia taking form. A sense of open longing for a past that maybe never was; pastoral. I remember the tree as I do my time in undergrad, with great respect, but also with a sense of wonder. It was the tree that grew and changed, fell into seasons, lost its leaves and grew them again. Not I. And when I look back at the tree I can see that I too took the same path, even though to the naked eye it was less obvious.

Look out for the tree in my work, the more mature fish, the bird and the cup of coffee. These are the signals of a better poet. Some write and have poems to show, others write and have edits to show, and those of us who have been working particularly hard have our phases to show for it. Keep an eye out for your own.


There is nothing wrong with a phase. Like its own little chapter in your work, it will be come relevant with that birds’ eye view we talk about all the time. Keep a look out for the ways that you change the your own personal symbols and how your metaphor develops as you do. For me the fish was a symbol of shedding the downy bird of youth and naivety. The fish was a harder, scalier truth that we grow as we meet loss. The tree, a cyclical figure demonstrates a nostalgia that has no bounds but makes us sturdy and strong in our roots. It is the roots of the tree, after all, that matter the most. Phases are like photographs, cherish them, develop them, guard them, share them.

Poem 85 RevisedPoem 85 Original

Poem 4 Revised


If the air was thick for fingers to run through,
The sun a yellow ripple in the tide
Then could a fish wander above,
Darting in and out of alleys,
Making coral homes of traffic cones?

Was there a fist that could not swim
But flay out fins for feet
And gasp of the lesser blue bodies,
Assail her gill-less swelling lungs?
Was there a fish who would not swim?


Poem 4 Edited – Poem 4 Original

Poem 4 Editing

As is customary with my projects, life got in the way… I wish it didn’t, but I have a better sun tan and a revitalized drive to finish this editing… so here we go, poem 4.

This poem comes from a poetic conversation between Bishop and Moore, a literary friendship and jumping point for cross generational writing, that often gets overlooked in the canonizing of poetry… when I read their work I strove to write my own fish poem… through my collection you will find a stretching romance with the idea of fish and marine iconography, though this early attempt is rather drab…

I’ll begin with the blue note down below, be wary of when and in what circumstances your poem exists… this was written during the turmoil of the oil spill, and the verbiage shows, the best way to avoid that is to go back and edit with fresh eyes, little blemishes like that will be easier to see.

This poem, like the previous editing, hits a stride after the first two stanzas. Don’t be afraid to recognize that in your own writing and cut away the fat. Your readers will have short attention spans, and if a poem is only as good as its middle, they may never get there…

Finally, the form and the way that the lines move should be intentional. Note the purple aside about enjambment. Make sure that the highlights and quirks of every line are intentional, don’t fall on enjambment or rhyme or structure to make up for missing elements in the language.


Remember to weed through the mess that is a first draft. This poem is clearly in its infancy, and if I hope to make it something more than a mere first attempt, I have to recognize the elements that are less than extraordinary… items like temporal elements (oil spill), clogged stanzas (1st and 2nd) and gimmicky rhetoric devices (enjambment and structure) hold back the overall piece and must be removed… the difference between a good poem and a bad one is removal of these flaws, the difference between a seasoned poet and a novice is their ability to recognize and overcome their own poetic issues.

Poem 4 RevisedPoem 4 Original

Poem 4


Was there a fish that could not swim?
Fluttering birdlike in the water,
Until she drowned of effort dim,
Blinded by a lost ambition,
Was there a fish that could not swim?

Does his shape decide him?
Are the animals decided at birth,
Even before they breathe the air?
What if a fish could breath the air?
And swim about the trees, a hawk.

If the air was thick for fingers to run through,
Dense syrup of the sea,
Then could a fish wander above,
Dashing in and out if houses,
Making coral homes of traffic lights?

Was there a fish that could not swim, 
But use her fins for feet
And gasp in the lesser of the two blue
Bodies in her gill-less swelling lungs?
Was there a fish that would not swim?

Was the seaweed too dark for her eyes,
Would she trade bubbles for lies?
Did she wish to feel sand laden floors
With petal-like fins for feet? 
And be heard with echoing sonic cries?

The silence of the sea would swollow
A fish that could not swim,
And leave her scales oil drenched or hollow.
So with all the oceans dimming, 
Are we the fish who just stopped swimming?


Poem 4 EditingPoem 4 Revised