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 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