Today, I set out to read the 48 poems I've accrued (43 in the voice of the sickly speaker and 5 in the distant voice of definition) for this project in order to get a sense of what is missing and what is weak. Dear Reader, I confess, I never made it past the first poem. When I placed the definition poems, I ended up placing them first, middle, and last, with the other two halfway between first & middle and middle & end.
So, the first poem I read this morning was "The Definition of a Febrile Body." I didn't make it to the second stanza before I started pruning in my head. I tore the sheet down from where I'd taped it yesterday and went to the computer to begin. As I pruned, I also decided to toy with italicizing each of the phrases that I got from the dictionary, just to see. And, yes, this worked too, which led me to revising all five of the definition poems, which led me to think about revision.
|from Wikimedia Commons|
~ after the initial gusto of the first draft, and then the resting time, be it a day or a month or more, I absolutely must be ruthless in my pruning ~ the extra words tend to stick out like so many sore thumbs, but it's taken years of writing and re-writing to develop this instinct
~ in all acts of revision it is important to read OUT LOUD to hear where the word/line trips, skips, or bogs down
~ I welcome the voices of my one or two trusted readers even if they haven't seen this particular poem ~ I am able to hear what they would say about the weaknesses of a certain poem, again only after years of exchanges
~ knowing one's own weaknesses is paramount ~ mine = too many adjectives and too much over-writing ~ I must approach all lines with editorial suspicion
~ sometimes a linebreak that I crowed over while drafting the initial poem, the break I thought so witty as to be perfect, wilts after the settling and must be destroyed for the sake of the poem
~ check each "and," each "this" and "that," every prepositional phrase...prune what isn't necessary ~ clutter will kill the forward progress of the poem
~ read it through out loud again and again, always on alert for where the writer brain is making corrections to smooth out the flawed ~ the writer brain will try to trick the editor brain every time