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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Getting A New Vision For Your Re-Vision

Editing focuses on things like correcting mistakes, improving syntax, cutting unnecessary words, and generally preparing a poem for publication. You might do similar tasks as you revise, but revision mainly seeks to improve the literary or artistic quality of a poem. How do you do that? How do you get new vision for your re-vision?

Most likely, the strongest of your senses helped you to begin a poem in the first place, so another sense can now help you to revise. If, for instance, you have a “poetic ear,” your poems just naturally express that natural sense of musicality or rhythmic beat. If you have an “artistic eye,” your poems may paint visual lines. If you’re a keen observer or have an analytical mind, you might find fresh comparisons in a simile, metaphor or other figure of speech. If your feelings provide your dominant sense, your expressive poems may speak to and for readers, saying what they cannot express well themselves.

Regardless which of your senses prevails, go with it. Let each poem flow to you with a new thought, musical phrase, sudden insight, fresh comparison, or whatever catches your poetic attention. Without censoring yourself, get your poem onto paper, then let it sit while something else occupies your mind.

When you return to the poem for your re-vision, use another sensory connection -- preferably one that’s opposite the original. For instance, if you have fluently expressed your feelings, let your mind now do most of the work as you analyze the connotations, sounds, and subtle nuances of each word in your poem. If your ear has been doing most of the poetic work, train your eyes to see what visual aids you might include.

By using one poetically attuned sense as you write a poem and another as you revise, your poetry can reach a new level of professionalism. More importantly, you may discover you connect with your readers in ways you had not imagined, for instance with humor, wordplays, sounds, insights or images that your readers will be glad to see and feel and hear.

Try these solutions too:

Read each poem or poetic text aloud.

Listen for anything that hinders the flow of sound or sense.

As you identify a problem, you will usually be able to identify a solution too, so be alert to that.

Correct any flaws, even if that means finding a new rhyme scheme for a traditional poem or recasting the lines in free verse.

Read aloud each revision.

If you’re not satisfied with the results, ask another poet with a similar level of experience to do a manuscript exchange, so you can provide each other with free feedback.

Also consider getting a professional critique of your poems. An objective, one-on-one response from a well-published poet or a practiced poetry editor can help you to improve a particular batch of poems, but then you can use that information to improve each of the poems you have yet to write.

As a Follower of The Poetry Editor Blog, you can send one poem of 3 to 25 lines for a free online critique similar to those posted below. If you would also like a private critique, writing consult, or edit of your poetry book, chapbook, or batch of poems, you’ll find information and reasonable fees on The Poetry Editor website – http://www.thepoetryeditor.com.


  1. I like the concept of looking at your own work with a different sense. It provides an objective distance.
    Actually I never thought about one sense being my dominant one, but I think it my poetic ear.

    From the text I filter the following senses: poetic ear, artistic eye, keen observer, analytical mind and feelings. Is that it? Or wasn't the post supposed to give a complete list?

    Later on an "opposite sensory connection" is mentioned. That is a tough one. If I look at the list of 5 above, I cannot say which is the opposite on which.
    Could you give examples?

  2. Thanks for your comments, Niels.

    No complete list exists that I know of since I've never seen anyone mention this. It's just something I do that works for me in revising my own poems more effectively. The possibilities or variations could conceivably go on and on, depending on the poet.

    In this article, I wanted to give poets a new way of seeing their personal writing process, so they can find ways to revise that do not rely on their same or primary sense. Since this differs from poet to poet, the discussion intended to give readers an idea they might not have thought of before with brief examples, not a complete list, to show what I meant.

    The word “opposite” did not say it well. “Different” would have been better. For example, a poem usually comes to me through the musicality of a phrase, which relies on sound, so when I revise, I might get cerebral or visual -- on purpose -- or maybe reach for an emotional tie-in to help improve the poem.

  3. Great steps for editing poetry. I think rewriting a poem is more difficult than rewriting a post or article.