Poetry Revision

Poetry, like any written work, needs revision. I suppose there might have been a handful of times when inspiration for a short poem hits and what comes out the first time is good enough. But most times there’s a good bit of thinking, speaking and writing that goes on after the initial words are put to paper.

When I say good enough I mean I’m happy with the way it sounds and I feel I’ve gotten my message across. In other words, good enough is an incredibly subjective measure of a poem’s completion.

Notice that I didn’t say a poem is good enough if half the people who proofread it say it’s OK. No, good enough comes before any eyes but mine have beheld the work. And that makes it incredibly dangerous. Because whether I think my message has been put across or not or whether it sounds good, no one else may see it that way.

That’s why the initial words of a poem’s first draft usually shouldn’t be published. It’s tempting (and I do it more than I should) to just put them out there quickly and see what happens. But that usually results in reading them later and cringing when you realize you let other humans read that slop.

Those initial words are not the poem; not really anyway. Instead, they’re the idea, the inkling of a theme or the exploration of a subject. Usually, when I think I’ve got something good, I’ll walk away from it for a week or more. I come back to it later with fresh eyes and see that it wasn’t very good in the first place. It’s then that the poem begins to be written.

A Two Minute Poem

I was bored the other day and was trying to get myself to do something; anything! I decided to give myself two minutes to write a poem. It didn’t matter how short or unrefined it was (good thing). It was only important that I wrote something. 

What I came up with probably should have only taken one minute. It’s short, circular and has no deep meaning. But it felt good to accomplish something anyway. 

I have two minutes

To call the muse

And have her show me verse.

So any lines 

I here put down

Must naturally be terse.

Long Poem

I hate long
poems that
go on and on
forever
making some
cerebral point
pointed by a
point of view
only the poet
who wrote the poem
would ever know
or care about.
Universal truth
abandoned and
a common bond
never bound but
words expected by
some teacher in
an obscure
junior college
to be understood
by her students
-What it mean?
-Why line break there?
-Why 50 pages
but each line
only 3 words?
Only the poet
who wrote the poem
would ever know
or care about
a lack of rhyme
or mention of
misanthropy on
the eve of winter’s
Dalmatian grip
or a circus
of puffins
returning to their
birth-place-slowly;
How magic
leaves leave Fall
by falling magically
with thoughts of
stardom fading as
the noonday sun
shines brighter
than all the home
fires burning to
call the lost
home for love
or hate or
whatever awaits
their time scarred lives.
For It’s these
obvious signs of
elevated “greatness”
and existential
extension that
grip me by
the throat and
threaten my very
being until, relenting,
I grasp the drawn-
out beast in a
fervent embrace
and declare my
acceptance and love
for all eternity but –
I cannot with
right conscience love
what demands to
be unlovely and
rip my life from life
and imprint it on
an unprintable page.
And that is why
I hate long poems
that go on and on
forever making
some cerebral point,
pointed to a
point of view
only the poet
who wrote the poem
would ever know
or care about.