Enjoy today and all the wonderful things it holds!
And come back soon!
Have a great day!
A Final Word
I hope you enjoyed this week's thoughts on writing poetry. I hope even more that you are all dabbling away in it right now. A poem is so small, so neat, so easy to draft. So quick to draft. That's one the things I love about it.
But like any writing, the real work, the real glory, the real birthing, takes place in the revision stage. Once you have a draft, you can begin.
Some basic tips on revision:
Step One: TIME.
Like any writing, the first thing you should do is put it away for a good long while. Wait until it has definitely cooled off, then pick it back up again and read it with an objective eye. Read it silently, read it out loud, and have someone else read it out loud to you. Listen with fresh ears.
Step Two: Objectivity. Separate the poem from yourself.
Now is the time to view it as though someone else wrote it. Where is the extravagance? The lines that make you cringe? The stumbling and awkwardness? Is there a nice poem in there, hidden? Find those faulty words and sentences, nail them, slash them, or at least mark it to come back to and fix.
Mary Oliver says she usually revises forty or fifty drafts of a poem before she begins to feel content about it. She has this to say:
"What you are first able to write on the page, whether the writing comes easily or with difficulty, is not likely to be close to a finished poem. What matters is that you consider what you have on the page as an unfinished piece of work that now requires your best conscious and patient appraisal.
One of the difficult tasks of rewriting is to separate yourself sufficiently form the origins of the poem--your own personal connections to it. Without this separation, it is hard for the writer to judge whether the written piece has all the information it needs--the details, after all, are so vivid in your mind."
Step Three: Jump In.
Start experimenting. Cut, rewrite, try on alternate lines, alternate ideas, come at it from different angles. Dive in and go!
Need a little more help? Don't know where to start? Consider transforming your poem to prose. Simply take out all the line breaks and put everything in a neat paragraph. This can allow you to view your work with a fresh eye and can allow certain errors to leap off the page as well. It can also restore us to our comfort zone and let us breathe easier, feel more confident about rewriting. Granted, doing this will involve a bit of back and forth, as you simply can't create a poem by taking prose and inserting line breaks. But it can be a good place to start, and the back and forth may generate further ideas and images.
Another idea that may be helpful is to join a writer's group, or have a trusted friend read your poem. If they say, "I like it," or "I don't get it," pursue details. WHAT do they like about it? WHAT makes them confused? Where? Which lines?
Step Four: Relax.
Everything good takes time. If it were easy, we'd all be multi-published billionaires by now. Is there any hurry for your poem to be finished? Is the world awaiting breathlessly? Is it worth fretting? Tearing your hair out over? Getting discouraged? Not really.
Ted Kooser writes: "At a party, I once heard a woman say that it was "criminal" that Harper Lee had only written one novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. What peculiar expectations we have developed for our writers! Criminal? We ought to be grateful Lee used her time to write her book as perfectly as she could, so that she didn't rush a lot of half-finished books into print.
So relax. There's plenty of time to do your writing well and, if you're lucky, to make a poem or two that might make a difference."
Encouraged? I hope so. And I hope you all will take some time in the near future to draft a poem or two, to jot a list or two to be used later in a poem, to think about imagery and metaphors and similes. Maybe even pick up a book of poetry and read it! ( I highly recommend Billy Collins Sailing Alone Around the Room for anyone 'just starting out' in poetry!)
I also hope you come back next week for more from the Booth. Until then, happy drafting!