Revising Poetry-a Demonstration Part Eight: Revise, Get Feedback, Revise Again

Revise

After looking at all my redrafts, I made a few more changes to my poem and was about to upload it to Scribophile, when I saw that in this version the poem read in couplets. Here is the version I uploaded to Scribophile for critique:

Cleaning All the Dirty Dishes

An impression arrests fruit flies in kitchen sinks full of ideas
frozen mid-irritation, like tinnitus introducing dizzying, swirling vertigo

after the ground falls away, my arms and my dress fly above my head
my pinky toe the stoical point, stepping out of the spiral my view telescopes

to his sweat on her body behind the bale
as if finally finding the source of wafting, permeating decay

Contentment empties glue of flavor and steals scissors of artistry
but constant irritation and itching desire keep me in motion

juggling stomach stones, insatiable hunger clacks and clicks
what indelible marks will topple to the tongue?

With nothing I’ve left, clean of any sticky coating
the bridge burner can’t choose to turn around

Refreshment wriggles among the moles under the tent of solitude
having vacated the house with ideas, but left the kitchen sink to fruit flies

fleeing obscures crackling and smoke, suffering the charred frame
his erasable touches won’t last past the first rain

the dark, fresh-earth tunnels adumbrate curious spaces for thought
where scraping, not smoothing, may nourish new understanding

The Feedback

The first two critiques I received said I should work on the punctuation in the poem. Though I disagreed with the example suggestions, I did find the suggestion interesting. So playing with some more punctuation is a note for the next revision.

I was also offered an interesting word replacement. A reader suggested using “inducing” instead of “introducing” vertigo. My original idea was that tinnitus is like the arresting impression because it acts like an announcer, an MC at an event introducing the next act, announcing the star entertainer, Vertigo, hushing, stilling the crowd in expectation and respect. Though I like the word “inducing,” tinnitus doesn’t exactly “induce” vertigo, they are both separate symptoms. Maybe I want to play around with MC Tennitus and capitalize Vertigo, or look for a different word than “introducing” to clarify my idea.

One critique suggested that the flow from the kitchen to the tent of solitude is unclear which opened my eyes to re-arranging stanzas. And another critique mentioned the distance of the point of view at the beginning not drawing the reader in.

Revise Again

Based on the encouraging and constructive feedback I received from readers on Scribophile, my revision plan is:

  1. Read aloud, paying close attention to pauses and breaks thinking about punctuation
  2. weigh each word and ask if there’s a better one
  3. try the stanzas in different orders for narrative flow
  4. Try more intimate, closer opening

The Final Comparison

Original / Final (revised after critique)

Conclusions

This series of posts on revising poetry has been a great experience for me. I finally got my head around meter and its vocabulary after trying many times before. I love the tools and resources I collected and all of the poems and poets I discovered along the way.

Exploring my poetry revision process with you has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for redrafts. One of the important revision steps after reviewing a poem is to decide which redrafting techniques will most improve the poem.

I found this great article by Suzanne Langlois: Poetry Revision Bingo, and designed a bingo card for myself with my redrafting techniques in the squares.

Next Steps

Inspired by The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics edited by Diane Lockward, I have turned my attention to creating a poetry collection. I hope you will join me on my adventure as I explore my themes, and share what I learn, as I put together and submit a poetry manuscript.

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