I have been stuck on a couple of poems. They didn’t do what I wanted them to do, resisted even doing something different, resisted any effectiveness in coming together in a way that made me satisfied. I think I pulled out my entire arsenal of editing ideas. Here were my editing efforts:
– Walked away from them for a couple of weeks.
– Rewrote them backwards to try to get some insights or suprises.
– Broke them apart and put them back together differently.
– Took out entire sections.
– Plotted the logic of my arguments/analogies to make sure they were solid.
– Asked a poet friend to take a look at them and I did the edits she suggested.
– Tried combining the two poems into one.
– Did a writing exercise starting with the prompt: What I’m really trying to say is…
Nothing worked. And so it goes. So I add them to my pages and pages of abandoned poems.
Sometimes whatever the impulse was to speak just does not lead to something worth hearing. It’s sad to abandon an effort. I keep the pages of abandoned poems around and revisit them occasionally, hoping some new insight will enable me to save them. I cannot recall a single instance of this working.
Part of working toward being a good writer is knowing when to walk away. Part of working toward being a good writer is asking enough of your poems that some of them just can’t make the bar.