Denise R. Weuve

Ink Damage and Other Permanent Stains

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

Revising all those April Poems

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 11.21.57 AMA month of support for what we love, Poetry and now cruel month of May is upon us.  Sure May offers a few flowers due to these April showers things, but have you seen prompts germinating?  Poems popping up through cracks in the cement?  Did anyone plush a poem from a neighbor’s garden and hand the found offering to you?  NOPE.

But you do have all those lovely poems and snippets from April, so let’s take the next step on turning them into some strong publishable pieces.  Let me give you a couple of tips about revising.  In no way is this a complete list, accurate list, but it is where I start.

  1. Treat these poems like someone else wrote them
    • If you treat them like your babies, you will never treat them with the unyielding hand of an editor.  You will be far too tender with them, being  careful to not hurt the poems feelings.
      • If this is too hard, hire an editor.  I know a couple of really strong ones I can hook you up with.
  2. If you write about your own life, do not be a hostage to the truth, be a hostage to the craft.
    • Your job is to give the poem it’s due.
    • So say you have a line that is in that poem because you need the ex to know this is about him, but in no way does it improve the flow-CUT IT!
    • Justify each line because of what it does for the totality of the poem
  3. Get rid of sentimentality.
    • There is a simple reason for this, your sentimentality is not the same as everyone else’s sentimentality.
    • The more you allow the reader to infer sentimentality the more powerful your poem will be.  Not sure, check out Ellen Voigt’s Lesson and/or Alexie Sherman’s Pachyderm
      • Both of these poems never tell the reader how to feel with leading adjectives/adverbs. . .the key
      • stay away from words like sad, happy, joyously, pathetically, etc
  4. Speaking of getting rid of words there are a few other words you might want to look at a lot more closely before you commit them to  your poem.
    • Abstract nouns – what are they adding?
    • clichés – we’ve heard it before.
    • receptive words not included for effect.  (just looks like you have a limited vocabulary)
    • watch use of that, this, those and indefinite pronouns (all, many, few, etc) – all of these words lack specificity, which poems need.
    • Watch your use of “I” – don’t make the poem so “I” heavy that the reader can never enter the world you have built.
  5. Look at your line breaks.  This is what I do, to make sure the line breaks are correct, I turn the entire poem into one paragraph, and read it out loud.  Most often, when I read it, I hear the line breaks.  Besides. . .YOU HAVE TO READ YOUR POEMS OUT LOUD.  Do it in your living room, bedroom, bathroom.  You will find a few of your mistakes just by hearing yourself read your poem.
    • End line hints-try to stay away from conjunctions, prepositions, and pronouns in favor of nouns, and verbs.  Strong words stay with the reader
  6. If revising a form, consider the form as a accoutrement to what your poem is trying to say. If for any reason the form is restricting you from saying what you must, it is time to break out of the form.
  7. Sound!  Sound! Sound!
    • The basics of poetry are within the ways we build the music of the words.  Let’s remember, poetry began with bards, and bards did sing.
    • We work with alliteration, assonance, consonance, euphony, rhyme (some times), resonance – make sure they are in your poem.  Make sure they are giving your work cadence.  Cadence is IMPORTANT
  8. I know this is not what any of us want to hear, but grammar and punctuation count.
    • You want these to be o point because you do not want to look like you did not edit when submitting
    • Punctuation tells your reader when to pause, stop, breathe.
  9. READ your poem OUT LOUD
    • I know, I said it before.  It is because it is necessary.  Completely and totally.  You have to hear your poem.

So these are a few of the tips I use when I start the revising process.  It is rarely easy to do, and as much as I would like to be the epitome of self revising/editing, I’m just not.  There are moments when I am too precious about what I have written, and it takes sitting that poem on a back burner for a while (months some times) so I can be as ruthless as possible with the revision process.  Why do I do this?  I want to be published.  If that is also your aim, next week I will give you a few options for journals.


See you than cats and kittens.


Post Navigation