Revising Poetry-a Demonstration Part One: Review

A view of fir trees through a second story window.
An Impression of Flight by Maria L. Berg 2021

The First Read

I printed out my poem in larger than regular font (14pt) and 1.5 spacing. Then I read it aloud while walking around the room.

The poem I’m reviewing is the first poem I wrote during NaPoWriMo last month:

Breeding Fruit Flies with Two Different Eyes

An impression arrests the fruit flies in kitchen sinks full of ideas
frozen in mid-irritation, fleeting yet multiplying before your eyes
what indelible marks will topple to the tongue
and adumbrate the growing clutch

Contentment empties the glue of flavor and steals the scissors of artistry
the constant irritation and insatiable hunger
–of those fruit flies, feeding in the sinks–
sketch an impression of furious flight

Refreshment wriggles among the moles under the tent of solitude
having vacated the house with the ideas, but left the kitchen sink to the fruit flies
the dark, fresh-earth tunnels adumbrate new and curious spaces for contemplation
where crawling, not seeing, may nourish new understanding

Close Reading

Though my review process is not the same as close reading, many of the same concepts apply. If you are not experienced with close reading poetry, there are a myriad of examples at ModPo on Their close readings are so in-depth it’s quite mind boggling, but you will get the idea.

Here are some informative articles on close reading:

How to Read a Poem from Adacemy of American Poets

Poetry: Close Reading from Purdue OWL

Some Hints to Help You with “Close Reading” from UPenn


This poem has been sitting for a month with many poems written since, so it should be well rested. I pretended someone else wrote it and I’m reading it for the first time. I asked myself:

What do I like about it? I like the rich imagery and metaphor

What don’t I like about it? It feels cluttered. There’s too much that isn’t clear. I want to know more of the story, the character, motivations, and conflict.

Now, let’s get really specific. Let’s go step by step through my review checklist:

Identify POV, tense, form, voice

The poem begins with “an impression,” but whose impression? In the second line “before your eyes” would make me think this poem is written in the point of view of the writer addressing the reader. It is written in present tense.

The form of the poem is “Jar and Janus” a form I invented and I am developing as discussed in the Draft section of my last post.

The voice of the poem is somewhat flat, like the monotone of someone trying to hold it together as everything crashes down around her. The third stanza shows that the narrator has left everything behind looking for new contemplative spaces to get away from all the buzzing idea-eaters. The flatness of the voice, however may be because the poem is so compact, it doesn’t leave room for breath.

setting, narrative

There are two settings in this poem:

  1. A kitchen, perhaps an old, somewhat unclean, or impossible to clean kitchen
  2. Dark tunnels under a tent, at a forest campsite perhaps.

The narrative tells the story of a frustrated, disillusioned person (artist, house wife?) who in an instant sees the futility of her situation and leaves it behind to find herself in the unknown and uncomfortable.

themes, moods


  • The creative mind can’t be tamed.
  • Some people can’t be domesticated.
  • freezing a moment, may reveal a truth/ an answer

Mood: Stopped, Frozen in time, Longing, Disillusionment

Photograph of highlighted and marked-up poems on a table with vases full of slips of paper and forget-me-nots in small green vase.
The Poet at Work by Maria L. Berg 2021

create a color key

After printing out the poem, I grabbed my highlighter pens and made a color key. For this poem I chose orange for abstract nouns, pink for concrete nouns and yellow for verbs. This colored most of my poem. I think I’ll go ahead and use green for adjectives.

identify sensory details

sight: fruit flies, kitchen sinks, a sketch of an impression, dark
sound: ?
smell: ?
taste: indelible marks on the tongue, glue flavor,
touch: crawling in fresh-earth tunnels

other: arrests/frozen, contentment, refreshment, constant irritation, insatiable hunger, solitude

identify the best lines

For reviewing this poem, I was lucky that April 1st was also open link night at dVerse Poets Pub. The poets from the pub are so generous with their feedback. Thanks to the comments made on my post, I already have some direction as to which lines readers like the best in this draft. And they happen to be my favorite as well.

I like the imagery created by “arrests the fruit flies in kitchen sinks”

The three favorite lines from the comments are:

  1. “ideas frozen in mid-irritation”
  2. “Contentment empties the glue of flavor and steals the scissors of artistry”
  3. “wriggles among the moles under the tent of solitude”

mark weak verbs & nouns

Though “adumbrate” is not a weak verb, it is, sadly, out of place and should be replaced. My other Janus word “left” is also relatively weak compared to the other verbs, and “not seeing” could be stronger.

The abstract nouns that begin each stanza need grounding in the narrative.

words to mind map

Here’s a printable for mind-mapping I created:

For this poem I’ll do some quick mind maps of some of my abstract nouns: “impression,” “contentment,” and “refreshment” are the first ones that stand out. Then

mark areas to expand

There may be areas to expand, create some breath throughout the poem, but the main area to look at will be between the second and third stanza. The jump from the kitchen to under the tent of solitude could want some connection.

highlight cliche language

The end of the second line, “multiplying before your eyes,” feels cliche.

make easy cuts

I found two easy cuts, both in the second line. I think “ideas frozen mid-irritation” works better than “in mid-irritation. And an easy fix to the cliche language is to cut it, leaving the second line as “frozen mid-irritation, fleeting yet multiplying.”

choose what to edit to (theme, idea)

I want to edit to character and narrative. I want the reader to see a person recognizing a personal crisis, and finding a solution.

brainstorm alternate titles

Maybe I want to use the title to orient the reader:

  • She stares out the kitchen window
  • Staring through the cracked pane
  • She stares through the cracked pane

Or use phrases from the poem as a title:

  • Curious Spaces for Contemplation
  • An Impression of Furious Flight
  • Indelible Marks

Or a combination of both:

  • She Dreams a Tent of Solitude
  • A Tiny Frozen Idea Changes Everything
  • A Fruit Fly-Sized Thought Changes Everything
  • The Arrested Impression
  • In Need of Refreshment

Or something completely different:

  • The Kitchen Sink is Backed Up Again

make notes to guide re-write

The main notes I have for the re-write are:

  • make the narrative clearer
  • create more space and breath
  • find the turn in the poem
  • use all the senses

So there we have it. I have a lot to work with and think about for redrafting this poem. In my morning pages, I will free-write around my three best lines, explore the character, her motives, the conflict, the stakes, the narrative and more sensory detail, especially sounds, smells, and tastes.

I Couldn’t Think of Anything: ended up with way too much

Every photo in this post is a micro-mystery that starts with “M”

I can’t believe we’re already at the halfway point. The days are flying.

There’s a free online writing conference this weekend starting tomorrow called WRITEHIVE. I signed up yesterday. There are free workshops and presentations all weekend. Did any of you attend last year? I hope you’ll join me. Let me know in the comments and I’ll look for you. Now to poetry!

Can you guess them all? Post in the comments.

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to a small habit picked up from a parent. Pushing through while journaling really got me somewhere I hadn’t looked before.

The PAD prompt is a title prompt “(blank) Story.”

Over at the A to Z Challenge they have a fun game of Magnifying Glass. I think I’ll get in on that as a fun photography challenge.

I present two Janus words today: mad and mean

mad can bean both in love with/crazy about, and very angry at

mean can mean a lot of things, but as a Janus it is both average and superior 😉

Our Projects’ Story

Dad had two private spaces
the den and the garage
I wanted in, to watch
but wasn’t allowed
I thought he was mean
I was mad I was a girl

His spaces were messy
his messy, our kind of messy
everything had a plan, a purpose
yet to be accomplished
a spark of an idea
that would be

What if he was protecting me
he worried the moment that I might
see there was a flaw
an issue for him alone
or he listened to voices
on that raspy radio

that he didn’t want me to hear
having adult, contrary thoughts
I wasn’t ready for, or
it’s very possible,
that both of Dad’s places
were experiments

full of his projects
and work and ideas
were his systems of
controlled chaos
competing experiments
engineered to find order

A girl-child–
a precocious, curious, tomboy
with her own creative mess
would be an added variable
a deviation, produce an outlier
muddle any useful findings

irreplicable results
rendering any formulas useless
The math, but a recording
of a wish unfulfilled
or rather an algorithm
for lies forgotten

Fungi poetry: such a great prompt!

A circle of mushrooms on the end of a felled tree
photo by Maria L. Berg

Today’s Tuesday Poetics prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub is all about fungi. Mushroom poems–and I was just looking at Alice in Wonderland images. I had so many ideas while reading the prompt poems. Here goes:

Fungous Circle

My Swedish Mom took me mushroom hunting
specifically for chanterelles, small orange ruffles hiding
among the stones and birch one would think obvious
but for a tween too elusive.

I thought fungus was gross as was all food
but she caught my attention as she pointed out
the important signs of poison.

Like the beautiful little wild flowers that
sprung through the forest floor after the winter waned
I had been kept ignorant, though a curious child.

Now, it is understandable that I hadn’t been guided
to see, to hunt, to appreciate
each unique cap, each frill of a delicate gill,
each stalk and ring.

When our mushrooms grow from septic or near run-off
my wild palate wasn’t encouraged
free food can be dangerous
I was already known to eat flowers.

Taught the circle of life, I saw
the little trees growing from the fallen as
I traipsed across the canyon.

I told my parents I would be buried there.
They denied me. Said it couldn’t be done.
But now, it’s clear, I was not the only one.

To be put in a sack, made of mushroom spores
And planted, it’s happening, possible.
Then I read people are making mushroom sneakers.
Do I want to be stinky feet? That run comfortably and well.

I want to be a tree.

Quick Reminder: Editing panel coming up today #TBRcon21

This free writers conference has been wonderful so far. Great authors talking with each other about writing–What could be better? I’ve had Goodreads open the whole time and keep adding to my Want to Read list.

I hope you get a chance to watch live and ask questions, but if not, they have the sessions you miss available on Youtube.

There are also book give-aways.

Free Writers Conference Starts Today!

Sorry I disappeared there for a bit. After my last post, my plans derailed–one thing after another–and I had a little trouble getting back on the tracks. Today, however, I want to share an exciting event. It’s the first day of TBRcon21, a free online sci-fi writers conference. Tons of authors. Tons of interesting sessions. I’ll be checking it out on YouTube It starts this afternoon. Here’s the schedule:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tbr-con-free-scifi-conference.png

I’m especially excited for Wednesday’s line-up and hope that the Joys of Editing session will prod our adventure into revision. It looks like there’s a lot of interesting discussion and information here for any writer (not only sci-fi), so I hope you’ll join me at TBRcon.

Welcome to Experience Writing 2021

Where There Are Tiny Dinosaurs In Trees (2020) bokeh photograph by Maria L. Berg

Attempt at Focus

This year has one main writing focus and that is revision. I will be revising my novels one after the other. I will be revising my short stories and my poems. I will find ways to stay motivated during revision. I will explore revision tools, workbooks and worksheets and find what works and doesn’t work for my process along the way.

There will be events like National Poetry Month in April, OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month) in October and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, but other than that, this site is about revision this year.

If you are an author or poet (or both) who would like to share your revision process, or tips and tricks let me know in the comments, or send an email. We can schedule a guest-post or an interview.

The Revision Experience Begins

Planner Pages

I thought I had given up on my planner pages, but then I wanted to start setting up my revision goals. I took a look at the revised pages I made for December 2019 and thought they would work nicely. After some quick revision, I offer what I’ll be using this month. If you are interested in looking back at my planner for writers project, it started back in February of 2019. Just click on the month in the archives (column to the right).

The file is set up to be used in OpenOffice. I decided to leave the deadlines blank this time, so you can focus on the deadlines that most interest you.

Here are the sites I usually look at when I’m researching deadlines:

I liked the prompts and the format of these planner pages. I also like the more achievable goal of three submissions a week. I look forward to your feedback on the pages and hope you find them useful.

To start my short story revisions, I chose twenty-one of my short stories and put them in one PDF without titles. My goal is to attempt to read through them on my tablet as if it is someone else’s collection and choose my ten favorites for revision.

I purchased Cat Rambo’s short story revision class and look forward to taking the ten stories I choose through her paces.

I’ll talk more about organization and preparation tomorrow. I wanted to get the planner pages out today, so you can start using them.

Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise is free to download today and tomorrow.

I saw Jennifer Garner talking to Jimmy Fallon about the charity #SaveWithStories and I wanted to do my part, so my book is free today and tomorrow.

Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise

Get your free copy of Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise.

Happy Reading!

Innovations in Klecksography: Changing the shape of the paper

alluring intrigue grows

For this poem, I used the Mustache magnetic poetry kit.

Today’s innovations were inspired by a design challenge on Spoonflower. Spoonflower is a great website that lets you design your own fabric and start your own fabric store. I have a shop called Mber Creations with a few bokeh photography designs that I turned into repeating patterns for fabric. I really like the samples they sent me of the designs on spandex. I plan to use them in my fabricglass fabric art.

The challenge is to create a fabric design with paper cut outs. The example they gave is based on work by Henri Matisse that he did late in life. His cut-out designs were turned into stained glass (below right). For my innovation, I started by cutting a piece of paper into a similar-ish leaf shape and then splattering it and folding it.

I found I was very timid with the paint when the paper was already cut. Then I pulled out some of my “failures” from yesterday and cut them into Easter Eggs. I like them, after I added more paint. The small one top right opens to be a card. Kinda fun.

Rorschach Easter eggs cut after

The most exciting innovation of the day, in my opinion, was using two folds to blot: vertical and horizontal, clipping on the horizontal after drying and using paper punch shapes.

two fold with paper cutting stamps

I hope you’re finding lots of ways to have fun and stay happy.


Innovations in Klecksography: Fail better edition

Butterflies and gator

I like this ink blot from the other day. I see two butterflies and an alligator. What do you see? For this poem I used the Genius magnetic poetry kit.

For today’s innovations in klecksography, I tried a bunch of new things:

I tried folding and blotting along the diagonal

ink blot diagonal fold resized

I tried folding along many diagonals:

ink blots multiple diagonal folds resized

I even tried creating shapes with my splatters:

shapes resized

In the top half, I went for a circle and the bottom was an attempt at a triangle. Can you see it? Neither can I. 🙂

Overall, today’s ideas resulted in ugly messes, in my opinion, but I think with less dots from a larger brush, I might be onto something. At least I have a couple new avenues of exploration. I have heard that innovation comes from failing, trying again and failing better. So here’s to failing better tomorrow!

Happy Reading and Writing!


Discovering a New Palette

four ink blots

Sunday morning I was debating whether or not I should order a new little watercolor kit because the one I’ve been using is almost out of paint, but then I remembered an old Gallery art kit in my closet. I was excited to find a whole new palette of colors to play with.

new palette

Gallery separated the palettes into Primary Colors, Earth Tones, and Pastel Shades which makes for nice layers of tones.

The lesson I’ve learned from this discovery is an important lesson even if we weren’t in a pandemic: Look through your supplies before ordering more. You may already have what you need.

The poem

This morning, I took my trash out and went to check my mail. I’m not sure why it surprised me, but kids were playing in the park on the corner and people walked by walking their dogs. Life goes on in my neighborhood. More than normal, I guess, since the kids aren’t in school and people aren’t going to work.

I had to work at it, but I believe I wrote a positive poem for today which was my intention. I used the Sasquatch magnetic poetry kit.

hunt the mysterious at home

Happy Reading and Writing!