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 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

Poem 58 Editing

Today we are going to talk about the heartline.

Often, but not always, there will be a part of a poem that inspires the rest. I call this the heartline, the part most vital to the ideas behind the poem itself. Sometimes there will be a reason to remove this line, sometimes it inspires several poems. Every situation is different, but if you find that there is a distinct line that povits the rest of the piece, this post will aply to that kind of poem.

The heartline, suuuuper imprtant. I find that I am playing with a line for weeks before I ever write the poem. Don’t rush it. That is how we get lame poems. Sometimes your poem will support this line, other times it will dissapoint it.

If you find that your poem is not living up to te heartline there are a few options. Scrap it, fix it, or just remove that line. It might make sense without it.

For this poem, that line was merely the inspiration, it is not the backbone or the crux, or the moral at the end. It is merely an image (and an allusion to the headstone of Keats btw) that allows for the poem to pivot into motion.

Heartlines don’t need to be very compelling in themselves, but are another good test of your editing potential. If the poem is living up to the heartline, then a small scale editing may help. If the poem dissapoints the heartline, maybe there are some bigger moves you need to make in order to improve the work as a whole.


The heartline is an important benchmark for any given poem. If a poem grew from a single line, your job is to decide if the poem lives up to that line or if it dissapoints it. In no way should this line be anything but an inspiration, no pressure, but remember that getting down everything in your head is impossible, but that heartline, that thread is a good tell of how close you got.


Poem 58 RevisedPoem 58 Original