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Revision time


Partially repeating myself here. I must figure it justified.

As the board knows I am slowly posting an old novel in the Chalkboard forum. The posting is mostly a by-product of the main objective, which is to finally get the novel into a word doc. While posting I am also taking the opportunity to edit, not so much rewrite or revise, but edit. Roughly every page is getting lightened by 50 words or so. Verbs made more active. Descriptions sharpened. Sentences sharpened. The premise being, as said elsewhere, I figure I am a better word tech than I was some 24 years ago.

I am in the mood to take on a second project. It involves a recent collection, Bottom City Blues, posted in Ateliers. I started last weekend. As of today I am maybe a quarter of the way through. So far I've not come to a poem I do not think essentially works. This is good news and a little surprising. But, then, I spent more time making the collection, and each of its poems, than I have yet, 7 years actually. This being my sixth collection. So I got some reflections on the process of revising, rewriting, and editing. Posted at random, with no particular order of importance.

Maybe, however, the first reflection is the most important. I've never understood writers who do not enjoy the editing process, who do not give themselves wholly up to it in the spirit of full engagement. I sometimes wonder if such a writer is actually, instinctively, a writer. I also, and sometimes, wonder, if the writer not fully engaged in revision time can succeed in the process. If approached begrudgingly, or with reluctance, out of a sense of duty, where in fact is the engagement? That might be the biggest thing.

Something else. There is a huge difference between revising, rewriting, and editing. If there is a need to rewrite, especially, I am not sure first execution was as fully considered as it should have been. But here I will contradict myself. Writing, for me, particulalry in poetry, is in its first instance pre-conscious, coming from before the thinking sets in. At the same time I still maintain that first execution should be a considered process, conception fully realized. From my first writing years there are several poems, no stories, that would eventually get rewritten. One especially that I've posted calledSouthern Sisters. In retrospect I think the problem with some of the early stuff was that initially, with first draft, I gave too little, not enough.

The circumstance taught me a huge, very practical, lesson. With the first draft give too much, say too much, get overblown, wear too much perfume or cologne, wear the kind of clothing that over accentuates shapes, forms, contours, even flesh. Give too many incidentals. And, the biggest lesson of all, feel too much. There is always time enough later to hone or fine the story providing the material is ample in the first place. Retelling a story or poem points to two problems: either not enough story was told in the first instance or the story (poem) was badly, ineffectively told the first time around. In both cases I figure the writer (poet) lacked a certain amount of courage, in all likelihood being afraid of being exposed too much. For a writer self-possession can be a killer.

Revising is not retelling. Revising is a matter of getting the sentence right. It is a matter of revisiting the sentence and, in a clear-headed moment, getting immediately that sense and meaning were less than exactly expressed the first time. Then getting serious and going after the thing, sometimes ruthlessly. Revising often involves recognizing one's own sloppiness, or one's penchant to be satisfied with the slack phrase, easy thought, or too great a reliance on the cliche, either in thought, feeling, or image. In poetry revising also applies to both image selection, is it sharp enough, to line rhythm, how does the line, and the enjambed lines, fall on the ear? Revising in poetry also pertains to stanzaic and strophic organization. In my view, though not entirely, every stanza or strophe should be viewed as its own organic unity. For example, the ancient Persian Ghazal, as form, is a series of couplets. Each couplet self-contained, expressing its own thought or emotion, able to stand on its own, and yet leading on to the next couplet, then the next, until the poem is arriveed at. A huge mistake poets make is to view stanzas and strophes as arbitrary units of organization. They are not. Nor have they ever been. Come revision time the poet with an instinctive eye to form, no matter the poem's chosen form, will immediately know whether or not the poem is organically built in increments.

Editing. In some ways editing is the least of the three revisits. In an other way it is the most exacting and the most difficult. Mostly it involves support words. Articles, prepositions, adverbs. Sometimes it involves predicative verbs. In poetry it always involves line rhythm and cadence. This last is as true in quantitative verse, in open form verse, in vers libre, as it is in all the more traditional, formally and metrically structured forms. Charles Olson said it best. The line is structured on breath.

That is how I view the process. When I feel I have to retell a story or poem I am inclined to send it to the morgue file. No point in mucking about with an idea, conception, or narrative not striking a nerve essentially. By now mostly I edit. But I have been known to revise when it comes to, impact delivery.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Aug/21/2011, 5:49 pm
Aug/20/2011, 3:14 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Revision time


Something else occurs to me. Come revision time and the poet revisits the poem, if she is not swallowed up, taken in by, thoroughly trashed by, engaged down to the flesh by, vulopted by the poem, why should she think the reader will respond less indifferently? Come revision time this just might be key.

Tere
Aug/21/2011, 1:13 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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