Thursday, June 21, 2012

Today Revision Means To Prune

87º ~ for conditions, see every post from the last week, and so it goes

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


Justin Evans said...

Perhaps I need to re-think my utilitarian approach to line breaks in favor of wit and perfection. 90% of the time I am just guessing.

Sandy Longhorn said...

It's mostly instinct for me, too, and largely based on how I hear the first line during drafting. Mysteries!

Tawnysha Greene said...

Great advice! Revision is a wonderful stage, because that is when you make the work really shines! Can't wait to meet the sickly speaker!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Tawnysha!