Poetry revisions sometimes occur with a new vision or “Aha!” moment, which can lead a poet to rewrite a poem, rather than revise. If, however, the poem just needs a little tweaking, these techniques can help you to revise: connection, compression, precision.
Does the “I” of the poem present an exclusive incident that readers won’t relate to or recognize as their experience too? If so, find a way to connect the poem with common concerns, interests, and encounters that most people have.
Also, see what happens if you change the viewpoint from the first person to the second person account to make the poem more personal to each “you” whom you address. Or, try switching the perspective to third person, so “they” will become what you the poet and I the reader can witness together.
Does the poem go on too long? Traditionally, print publications only have space for X number of lines on the page, and readers seem to prefer this too. By decreasing the word count, you often increase editorial interest and generate more interest from busy readers, but quite likely, you will also increase the rhythmic flow and literary quality of the poem.
As you read your poem aloud, listen for the sound and sense. Ask yourself:
Does each word and sentence speak with clarity?
Is there another phrase or word choice that would be more precise?
Is there a synonym that repeats the sound of nearby consonants or echoes vowels, thereby increasing musicality?
Would another word add connotations and deepen the meaning of the poem?
© 2011, Mary Harwell Sayler
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