Thursday, August 11, 2011

Revision

Exercises
1. Stealing the Goods by Stephen Dunn (225)
Take any failed poem of yours (from your notebook of failed poems, which all of us should have) and extract from it the line that most interests you. Use it as the first line in a poem that you will now write. Throughout, the poem should live up to the standard of language and thought that that line represents.

2. Jump-Starting the Dead Poem by Lynne McMahon (227)
Take... an old or abandoned poem, around twenty or thirty lines, and begin to write its negative... Try isolating the key words and finding their opposite. Try a line-for-line reversal for as long as you make sense. It maybe be that the negative can sustain itself for two lines only, and another poem begins to appear.

3. The Shell Game by Thomas Rabbitt (239)
Revise one of your earlier poems into a formal structure, either a received form such as a sonnet or a rigorous stanzaic pattern. If the poem you choose to revise is already "formal," transform it.

Reflections
Richard Tillinghast
Savvy rewriting is a way of staying flexible when entertaining that separate being which is the poem. The metaphor of "entertaining" is deliberate. Being a good host means coming up with fresh things to do that will allow your guest to enjoy herself. And if she's having a good time, well, you take it from there... Revising is not so much a task as it is a romance. I like to write the whole poem out fresh whenever I make changed. That puts me into the flow of the poem, the music of the poem. It's at this point that those assonances, consonances, alliterations, repetitions, that give the poem its subtle music become refined.

Donald Justice
Move on quickly to the next poem and trust to the kindness of the muse.

Susan Snively
Seeing oneself anew, reenvisioning the predicament out of which the poem grew, gives it more, not less to draw upon. Sometimes the questions are painful: "What am I not allowing myself to say? Should it be said? Why do I want this poem to end? Is it a false resolution?" Asking them is necessary, as is admitting that some poems don't make it... But the "stillborn" poem, by drawing off negative energy, may lead to a viable poem, rescued by silence and waiting.

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