I think I wrote a poem, now what?

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?

 

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2 responses to “I think I wrote a poem, now what?

  1. Whoa… It’s interesting that I’m reading this now. Very early this morning I finished a poem and posted it without feeling sure of it. I thought some feedback might help me see it better. I was impatient to post it because it’s a very personal poem. I had wanted to write prose, but it said it would only be poetry today. (?!)

    I was able to get a couple of hours of much needed sleep, and when I re-read it, I didn’t like it as a whole. I don’t think it expressed what I wanted to say. I’m getting better about letting people see what they want in something I’ve written, as long as it says to me what I wanted to say, but I just didn’t do a good job. When I rewrote it, a few hours ago, I left the first stanza but changed “he” to “you” throughout the poem. I worked toward clarity, changed the end a little, read it aloud, slow, a few times and ended up feeling that it worked better. I have no idea why it worked now when it wouldn’t this morning.

    I left the first version up since nobody had hated it yet. Then I posted the new version after it. I ended one of my answers to comments by saying how hard this writing thing is. I certainly feel worn out about now.

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