Throw a party, you just wrote a poem! Once you sober up, go back and revise. Maybe you’ve heard people say “first thought, best thought”? The idea is that your initial inspiration is the very best expression. I honor the first thought. It’s always good to go back to the original thought, that’s where the initial energy of your poem is. However, I’m firmly in the revising camp.
There are a thousand ways to revise a poem. Whole books have been written on the subject, but here are a few beginner ideas.
Did you start in the right place?
So many times, the last line should be the first one. Or maybe your first three lines are the poem version of clearing your throat before you really begin. Cut them.
Did you end in the right place?
Did you end with a bang or a whimper? Was the bang or whimper appropriate to the poem you are trying to write?
THERE IS MORE THAN ONE RIGHT PLACE.
See, you just drove me to all caps.
Read it out loud.
Does it trip nicely off the tongue? Great. Do you stumble? Change it, otherwise your readers will stumble there too.
Think about your line breaks.
Do your line break in unexpected places? If so, does that add to the meaning of your poem or do you want more sedate line breaks that break with the grammar of the sentence?
Are your words strong enough?
You can almost always choose better words, words that do more, words that are more precise. There are always better words. That’s the hell of it.
Do I want stanzas or, dare I say it, a form?
One great revision technique is to make your short lyric poem into a prose poem. Or dialogue. Or a sonnet. You may not keep it in these new forms, but I guarantee it will teach you something about your poem.
What are your revision techniques?