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 60 Edited

Here we go with those weird forms again.

When I talk about control this is what I’m referring to. Remember that we don’t know anything outside the poem. That’s it. So, for example, when a poem only has 80 ish words, each of them becomes wildly important.

Shape poems are the most fun by far. It’s become a bit of a school gimmick with egg poems for Easter and house poems and all that. In this case the shape is less literal. But nevertheless, the image of a stair step down is intentional, as I meant to depict a stepping off of a kind of pedestal. Also backwards, to imply lost momentum, even a retracing of steps.

Now this only will work if the poem buys into this completely and creates a pattern. Again that sense of form, whatever the form is, maintaining consistence until the line is broken with intention.

You might not see the steps, or understand their express meaning initially, or ever. This is part of an emotional choice. The poem would feel different if it were centered, or if the top line was longest, etc. In this case, we are setting tone. This isn’t an egg poem or a house poem or a tree poem, but a shape poem with a mood agenda intended to set tone at first glance and inform with content later.


Mood agenda via shape is a powerful tactic. We have a 2 dimensional experience with poetry: first a visual experience of words in shape and line and second a literal or metaphorical understanding of words. That’s why poets get to choose line breaks and indentations and spacing in general. It’s one of the few things that separates poetry (sometimes) from prose. Keep that in mind when you shape to emote.

Poem 60 RevisedPoem 60 Original

Poem 7 Edited

Fun With Forms

Form poems have been around as long as poetry, in fact poetry would have hardly been considered an art without adhering to strict rules and guidelines for meter and rhyme… as poems took on the structure of conversation, and each following generation pulled farther and farther from the preceding norm, forms became an identity a poem could showcase rather than a requirement.

With that said, there are hundreds of variations of forms that you could try with your work. I will get into these more thoroughly as I revise sonnets and villanelles from my own collection. For now I will address the issue with all forms as they pertain to the editing process.

Writing a form poem is easy: just follow the directions.
Writing a good form poem is hard: make the directions more meaningful with your content.
Editing a form poem is grueling: with the limitations of a form imposed on a poem, it can be hard to see where changes could occur and even more difficult to enact those changes without compromising the structure.

When you come across a poem that you feel needs revising but are worried about breaking the pattern you can follow my quick guide to revisions:

1. Do all of the words work?
Fixing iffy words is like repainting a house, it freshens everything up and makes the message more meaningful. This can happen at any stage of the poem and should always be a part of your editing…

2. What are you saying?
Form poems can be tricky because the poem might end before the profound truth is revealed. Remember that poems are more than witty compilations of words, and that even in a poem with structure the message must bring something new to light… or else why are you writing?

3. Should this be a form poem?
After a few read through’s with fresh eyes, it will be clear whether this poem is enhanced by the form or if the poem depends on the form to be considered a complete piece… if you find yourself leaning on the poem’s structure, your poem needs some serious remodeling…

For this particular piece, which has seen its fair share of editing in poetry classes during my undergrad, question three is my main concern. I can spruce up the words, I can add more umph, but there are still some areas that need work. For example, the mother-daughter lines in the first stanza are a little bland… I wonder if they are just filling in the form or of there is something more there.


Forms are a fun way to challenge your poetry and expand your ability to control language. They can also be a sore spot in your collection if you don’t give them proper editing. With the three steps I have for editing poems, and maybe some of your own, you will be able to successfully tackle your more structured work without turning a blind eye to the form’s shortcomings. Who knows that Keats or Shakespeare might have written had they been allowed to open their structure. Who’s to say what Whitman or Pound or H.D. might have penned had they been forced to work with structure instead of poetic philosophies. As a Millennial writer you have the best of both words, so write and edit to the peak of your abilities, knowing that there are no walls around your work but the ones you create for yourself.


Poem 7 RevisedPoem 7 Original

Poem 2 Editing

Dear Readers,
Poem 3! I’m on a roll…


Honestly this whole thing turned out to be way more fun than I expected. Especially since there’s no grading involved and I get to use brightly colored pens! If you are an academic writer like I am, the impulse is to write the best paper or poem possible for a potential reader. In this undertaking, I have no professor to pander to nor any notion of a final number value associated with my work… it’s a pretty freeing concept. At the same time I need to be satisfied with what I turn out from these editing sessions, which in some ways makes things even more difficult… depends on how harsh a critic you are of your own work.
I want to take a moment to discuss a theory of poetry I developed during my thesis. I delved into the idea of two dimensional vs. three dimensional poetry. 2D poetry is your average poem: it has words and a shape. 3D poetry involves a poem’s words, its shape and a third element of some sort—maybe visual, sound, smell, interaction or anything else that brings the poem off the ‘page’. This blog qualifies as a third dimension, so does this commentary or the editing image below. That’s as much as I’ll bore you… someday when my thesis is published you can all marvel at its genius… for now the 2D poetry concept serves as an important structure for today’s editing.
This poem tried to do something rather complex with its echo effect. Sadly, it does not do so in a profound or memorable way… so I’m taking this opportunity to remove that fluff and try something new with the poem as a whole. Sometimes things don’t work out… it’s our job as the poet to realize the shortcomings of a piece and make it better by trying something new…
I have another three-pronged strategy for editing this poem: it’s the RE tactic. RE-move, RE-word, RE-position. Again, the first steps are always the most broad-sweeping. Removing will involve taking out everything that pulls attention away from the main message… in this case, there’s a lot to remove…
Rewording and repositioning is the fine-combing work. Consider carefully the ways in which you revise your work. After the fluff is gone, there are still ways to help and hinder the message. And don’t over edit. The great Walt Whitman really did a number on “Song of Myself” in an attempt to revise. His first edition is often lauded as his best because he took the idea of editing to an extreme. While none of us are in danger of being as awesome as Walt Whitman, there is still that opportunity to mess up a poem by carving too much away. Food for thought…
The Takeaway:
A poem, whether it was intended or not, has a lot more going on than just the words on the ‘page.’ Seize the opportunity to make your poem memorable in all ways, whether that is shape, content, or something entirely new. I decided to make this tree poem speak to its subject more literally and find that it makes a world of a difference in the final product. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box… after all, this is poetry.