All misty wet with rain; or, Seeing the Forest Through the Trees; or, More on Revision

I swore off workshops long ago for a variety of reasons I won’t get into here, but as I’d been brooding over this particular poem for a while, and as isolation breeds a kind of insanity, I signed up for one.

It was not as bad as I’d feared it could be, although not as useful as I had hoped, but I did get one takeaway, which is, perhaps, all one can realistically hope for. It was worth the price of admission, but perhaps not entirely worth the hours of sitting staring into zoomland.

And I share it with you here for free. Cuz that’s the kind of gal I am.

The editing (or “revision”) process is often one in which I start with the idea of finding the weaknesses in a poem and getting rid of them. The process was reframed for me in that workshop in this useful way: Find the shining points in the poem and clear away anything that may be getting in the way of the shine.

It is very useful, this idea that the elements of a poem stand next to each other and cast shadows. You may want the shadows. You may not. I am grateful to be reminded to understand how the elements of a poem are standing together, what shadows they cast, what is illuminated and what is obscured by those shadows, and to take control of how light and shadow passes through the poem. You may want some, I think — some “chiaroscuro” in a poem, clarity/obscurity play of elements. But it needs to be carefully controlled so what is highlit is meaningful, what is shadowed is purposeful.

This may involve all the usual elements of revision: trimming, cutting, rearranging, but by thinking about it in terms of light and shadow, I’m able to bring a different kind of attention to the process, like thinning a grove of trees so as it strengthen the diversity of species, or dividing my vast, tangled patch of iris to let it thrive. So thanks for that, workshop.

As for the rest of the story, the workshop did give me the impetus to wade back in to the poem. I knew trimming would be advised, and some wholesale deleting of stanzas. A friend happened to be in the workshop and also had some specific advice re: my use of pronouns (more on that in another post) and the ending, as well as some need for clarification. So I took all that in hand and headed in, taking down trees.

Then I realized I could move stanzas around for logic of thought process.

I took out the ending. I wrote another one. Took that out.

Wrote a different beginning. Took that out.

Changed the pronouns.

Retitled the poem. Reretitled the poem. This process is useful for establishing my own understanding of the poem’s intentions.

I tried to walk away for a while. But kept thinking of new things to try. I put back in some things I took out earlier on.

All this changing led it to somewhat change direction. Okay, I thought, let it turn, and I’ll see where it goes.

It didn’t really go. I realized I was now writing things in to force it to go in this new direction. I felt like I was forcing the poem away from the thinking that was the impetus behind it in the first place. I took them out.

Finally, I went back and reread the original version of the poem. You know what? I kind of like it.

 

3 thoughts on “All misty wet with rain; or, Seeing the Forest Through the Trees; or, More on Revision

  1. I seriously, seriously want you to put together a chapbook or book of these meditations on writing and revising poetry. And on how reading has an impact on your thoughts about writing. And then I will publish it and use it in my classes. Hustle, girl! I need this book, like, four years ago. Okay, so you’re not Ms. Who. But I think students would get a kick out of it, and it will make a marvelous gift for writers from their baffled colleagues, friends, and relatives. Or vice versa.

    I’M JUST SAYIN!!!

    On Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 10:17 AM O Write: Marilynonaroll’s Blog wrote:

    > marmcc posted: “I swore off workshops long ago for a variety of reasons I > won’t get into here, but as I’d been brooding over this particular poem for > a while, and as isolation breeds a kind of insanity, I signed up for one. > It was not as bad as I’d feared it could be,” >

    Like

    • I have several times tried to wade in to my sea of blogposts to pull out ones that are craft focused, but eventually have exhausted myself. I did put together a couple of megablogposts that are a good start. I might need help…

      Like

  2. Reframing can be so helpful!
    Over the years, I’ve learned to let go of what I wanted the poem to express and see where the poem actually takes me. Kind of like the way fiction writers say their characters “talk” to them. Often I find I surprise myself (or, the poem surprises me). But when the initial idea is something I really want to express, well, reframing or going back to my first draft may be called for.
    If only I knew what it is I really want to say…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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