Revising Poetry-a Demonstration Part Three: Redrafting

The poem as I left it last:

She stares out the kitchen window

An impression arrests fruit flies in kitchen sinks full of ideas
frozen mid-irritation, like tinnitus of Meniere’s before the dizzying vertigo
stepping out of a spiral, the view becomes clear, as if finally
finding the source of wafting, permeating decay

Contentment empties the glue of flavor and steals the scissors of artistry
but constant irritation and insatiable hunger remain
to this arsonist of bridges with nothing I’ve left
what indelible marks will topple to the tongue?

Refreshment wriggles among the moles under the tent of solitude
having vacated the house clutching 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

Redraft

Let’s warm-up with some fun and easy changes, and build through our drafts and choices.

Play with Line Length and spacing, the visual look of the poem

I was inspired by a couple of the poems from the dVerse Poetics narrative voice prompt responses, specifically

The Lighthouse Keeper by Evan Schleicher and

Eurydice to Orpheus by Brendan at Oran’s Well

to look at short, centered lines. Let’s see what that looks like:

Indelible Marks

An impression
arrests fruit flies
in kitchen sinks
full of ideas
frozen
mid-irritation,
like tinnitus
of Meniere’s
before
the dizzying
vertigo
stepping out
of a spiral,
the view
becomes clear,
as if finally
finding
the source
of wafting,
permeating
decay

Contentment
empties the glue
of flavor
and steals
the scissors
of artistry
but constant irritation
and insatiable hunger
remain
to this arsonist
of bridges
with nothing
I’ve left, what
indelible marks
will topple
to the tongue?

Refreshment
wriggles among the moles
under the tent
of solitude
having vacated
the house
clutching 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

That is fun. I definitely like that.

Write the poem in different POVs and tenses to find the strongest telling.

The only place in the poem that shows that this poem is written in first person are my new lines in the second stanza, “to this arsonist of bridges with nothing I’ve left.” I think this line, though it’s doing lots of work, isn’t what works with this poem. Is the Janus turn I intended worth it, since I use it in the next stanza as well? Any ideas? Let’s see what I can come up with.

Indelible Marks

An impression
arrests fruit flies
in kitchen sinks
full of ideas
frozen
mid-irritation,
like tinnitus
of Meniere’s
before
the dizzying
vertigo
stepping out
of a spiral,
the view
becomes clear,
as if finally
finding
the source
of wafting,
permeating
decay

Contentment
empties the glue
of flavor
and steals
the scissors
of artistry
but constant irritation
and insatiable hunger
remain
with clarity,
a responsibility
what indelible marks
will topple
to the tongue?

Refreshment
wriggles among the moles
under the tent
of solitude
having vacated
the house
clutching 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

A different form in a different tense:

Curious Spaces for Contemplation

An impression arrested fruit flies
in kitchen sinks full of ideas
frozen mid-irritation, like tinnitus
of Meniere’s before the dizzying vertigo
stepped out of a spiral, the view
became clear, as if finally finding
the source of wafting, permeating decay

Contentment emptied the glue of flavor
and stole the scissors of artistry
but constant irritation and insatiable hunger
remained with clarity, a self-fulfilling responsibility
what indelible marks will topple to the tongue?

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

For each line, write its opposite. Search for the turn in the poem.

For this exercise, let’s stay with the short lines centered and play with opposites.

Invisible Ink

An ignored cry for attention
frees (what is the opposite of fruit flies) a cougar
from a shower
empty of thought
on fire
while at peace (in meditation)
like hearing you clearly from miles away

after
the still
grounded
stoicism
of a point
the closed
dies fogged,
unlike instantly
losing
a copy
of placid
dry
existence

Restlessness
fills the slime
bland
or gifts
some screwdrivers
of incompetence
and irregular comfort
or constantly quenched
flee
obscured
many whims
the erasable touches
won’t stand
away from an ass?

Thirst
sits in the grass
over non-sheltered
groups of people
refusing to leave
a wildness
letting go of nonsense
or right
a singular idea
from the (what is the opposite of fruit flies?) cougar
a light, destroyed sky
blockades adumbrate
old or bored blanks
of not thinking
here walking
vision
will not feed
old ignorance/stubbornness

Combine the opposites with the original

The Kitchen Sink is Backed Up Again

An impression arrests fruit flies in kitchen sinks full of ideas
An ignored cry for attention frees a cougar from a shower
frozen mid-irritation, like tinnitus of Meniere’s before the dizzying vertigo
empty of though,t on fire while in meditation
like hearing you clearly from miles away
stepping out of a spiral, the view becomes clear, as if finally
finding the source of wafting, permeating decay
after the still grounded stoicism of a point
the closed dies fogged, unlike instantly losing
a copy of placid, dry existence

Contentment empties the glue of flavor and steals the scissors of artistry
Restlessness fills with bland slime, or gifts some screwdrivers of incompetence
but constant irritation and insatiable hunger remain
creating irregular comfort constantly quenched
with clarity, a self-fulfilling responsibility
fleeing obscures many whims
what indelible marks will topple to the tongue?
the erasable touches won’t stand away from an ass?

Refreshment wriggles among the moles under the tent of solitude
Thirst sits in the grass over non-sheltered groups of people
having vacated the house clutching ideas, but left the kitchen sink to the fruit flies
refusing to leave a wildness, letting go of nonsense, or right a singular idea from the cougar
the dark, fresh-earth tunnels adumbrate new and curious spaces for contemplation
a light, destroyed sky blockades adumbrate old or bored blanks of not thinking
where crawling, not seeing, may nourish new understanding
here walking vision will not feed old stubbornness

Next Steps

At this point in the process, it looks like I’ve made more of a mangled mess than improvement, but I do like some of the new phrases created by the opposites. I’ll free-write around my favorites in my morning pages and see if they add to the poem. In the next post, I’ll play around with more expansion techniques and then put it all together into a new draft.

Revising Poetry: Creating a process

A photograph of seed packets and loose seeds on a poetry notebook.

A Seed of Hope

The seed yet planted
has potential
it may be the one
to burst into sprout
the tiny green hope
watched by the discerning eye
not ignored as the yellow
flowers in the garden,
the kale gone to seed
soon composted
to clear the way

That quadrille (a poem of 44 words) in response to today’s dVerse Poets Pub prompt, feels like a great way to start this week’s adventure in revision. Merril’s prompt “seed” is also a fun tie-in, because it’s a Janus word.

Now that the April challenges have ended and I have over thirty new poems drafted, it’s time to think about revision. Last year in May, I had the same idea. I read a lot of posts and books and started charting my revision process in my poetry notebook. I’m going to attempt to approach each draft as a seed, full of potential.

The Process

Here’s what I have come up with thus far:

Review

After letting a poem rest a while, come back to it as if reading someone else’s poem for the first time. What do I like about it? What don’t I like about it?

Here is my review checklist:

  • Identify POV, tense, form, voice
  • setting, narrative
  • themes, moods
  • words to mind map
  • alternate titles
  • highlight the best lines
  • mark weak verbs & nouns
  • mark areas to expand
  • highlight cliche language
  • choose what to edit to (theme, idea)
  • make notes to guide re-write

Redraft

Here are some ideas to try while redrafting a poem:

  • Choose the best lines and freewrite. Dig down, find the deeper meaning.
  • Use the best line as the beginning of a new poem.
  • For each line, write its opposite. Search for the turn in the poem.
  • Cut each line in half. Write a new beginning and/or ending for each line.
  • Write the poem in different POVs and tenses to find the strongest telling.
  • Expand, write past the ending. Tighten, to it’s most succinct telling.
  • Force into a form, or change from formal form to free verse.

Revise

Read the poem aloud. Feel the words in your mouth. Sing it to your favorite songs. Walk to it. Dance to it. Feel the rhythm. Have the computer read it aloud. Highlight anything that doesn’t flow, that doesn’t sound right, anything that feels forced or doesn’t fit.

Feedback

When you feel ready for some feedback, you might want to try Poetry Free-For-All, an online poetry workshop for poets to exchange critiques. There is a lot of useful information in the forums including A Workshop for One. 

I like that poets giving critiques are called critters. It makes me think of the campy horror movies. It’s fun to imagine getting poetry feedback from balls of fur with sharp teeth.

Learn from other poets

The forums of Poetry Free-For-All also include an extensive Recommended Reading list.

You may want to check out the videos at Sounds of Poetry with Bill Moyers.

Revise Again

Take the useful feedback and things you’ve liked from reading and listening to other poets talking about their work and come to your poem again with a fresh, critical eye. Read it aloud until it feels good in your mouth and body while clearly expressing your intended meaning.

A Demonstration

I thought it would be fun and useful to take the first poem I wrote this April, since it has had a good rest, and demonstrate each step through the entire process as a series of posts this week.

The poem I wrote on April First was:

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

The Draft

This poem draft follows a form I created myself that for now I call the Jar and Janus form. I started collecting words in vases last year when I enjoyed the Coursera course Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop with Douglas Kearney for the second time. While working with abstract and concrete nouns, I decided to create vases full of each, to make random connections to spark ideas.

For each stanza of this poem, the form (followed loosely) is:

  1. Abstract noun+verb+concrete noun+concrete noun+abstract noun
  2. response to that phrase/idea
  3. expand on the response in line two including a Janus word
  4. Use the Janus word to say the opposite, or create a second thought, or point of view
  5. Repeat for as many stanzas as you like

Now that the draft is created, the form isn’t particularly important, except to remember the Janus words and think about their opposite meanings.

Motivations

Before we dive into revision, it’s a good idea to focus intention. Why do I want to revise this poem? I want to improve it, of course, but why? And why this poem?

I want to revise this poem because:

  • It’s one of the first examples of a form I invented and I want to continue to explore the form.
  • I want to take one of April’s poems through revision to work through my revision process. This poem has had the most time to rest.
  • I think it’s a good example of my unique poetic voice that I want to continue to develop.
  • Though I will be publishing the revised poem here, so it won’t be eligible for journal publication, if I love the results, I may want to include it in a collection.
  • Since I plan on developing this form further, what I learn from this revision could be very useful for future poems.
  • My main motivation is to learn by doing and share the experience to inform others.

Next Steps

I hope you will join me this week taking a poem through all of the steps of my revision process. In my next post we’ll go through the Review and plan some re-writes.

Reflecting on the use of Janus words in my April poems

Today is reflection post day for the A to Z Challenge. I enjoyed their theme and posts about games this year. Though I did not remember to do the scavenger hunt, I really liked the idea, and if anyone is still looking for a post for “bear”, I wrote a poem called Black Bear’s Branch. I also did a questions post.

Though I made it through the alphabet with Janus words (also known as contronyms, antagonyms, or auto-antonyms), exploring their uses in my poems, I didn’t find them to be as useful in turning the poem as I thought they would. Without holding both meanings of the word in mind, it’s too easy to glance over the words less familiar, or less contextual meaning, which takes the power from the twist the Janus intends.

I wish adumbrate was a more common word because it’s a great Janus, meaning both to disclose and obscure. My post that got the most likes was a puente form poem called Overwhelming Possibilities which used the Janus phrase “wind up.” My post that got the most views included my poem Put Out by Perch which was selected as a featured poem on NaPoWriMo.org. It was an amusing rant using the Janus phrase “put out.” I think my favorite Janus used was “overlook” in my poem He is a Selfish Moon. My other favorite outcome of the challenge was discovering “Popcorn-can Coveer by Lorine Niedecker and attempting to emulate her form. In one of these concise poems I used the Janus word “terrible.”

At the end of the first week, on my birthday, I found out a friend died. That messed up my motivation and put me in a bit of a funk. Writing poems was more difficult and reading and commenting was also more challenging. Definitely my least favorite part of the challenge, but not something that could be learned from really, unless it informs me to prepare for the unexpected. I’m not sure how I would do that.

I know that many A to Z bloggers prepare their posts in advance, but I don’t have a way of doing that and combining the challenge with NaPoWriMo. I guess I could prepare alternate, off-prompt poems for each day, just in case life gets in the way–in case of emergency posts for the whole month? Writing through it, was probably a good thing. Something to think about.

Overall, April (for me) came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. I hope May will leave me focused on revision.

Just for fun, I found this song called Janus Stair by Contronym

I want to thank J Lenni Dorner for bringing my attention to the film The Professor and the Madman today. It’s an interesting story about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary based on the book by Simon Winchester.

Happy May Day

collage of photos of flowers in a woven-paper basket
Flower Basket (2020) multi-media collage by Maria L. Berg

I did it! I made it through April with over thirty new poems posted, inspired by NaPoWriMo and the Poem-a-Day Challenge. Congratulations to everyone who met these challenges. It was very fun to see the winners posted for last November’s Poem-a-Day Chapbook challenge. Congratulations De Jackson!

A to Z challenge winner badge

At the A to Z Challenge there’s an after-challenge survey. I enjoyed using the challenge to explore Janus words and phrases in my poetry.

I also enjoyed discovering art, craft and design sites I hadn’t visited before along with other writing sites.

This challenge isn’t quite finished. There will be a reflections post sign-up on May 3 and a blog road trip starting May 10th.

It’s time to get back to revision. This week I’ll be posting about my poetry revision process. I hope you’ll join me and share your tips and tricks for poetry revision.

The Final Destination

Today’s final NaPoWriMo prompt is to write directions describing how a person should get to a particular place.

The final PAD prompt is a goodbye poem.

Over at the A to Z Challenge they have a word scramble. The Janus word for today is zip which can mean energy, vim, or nothing, nada, zero

fisheye view of trees and sun

Time To Go

Goodbye. It’s time
for me to be
on my way

If only I knew
where I wanted to be

I would zip up the stairs
and burst out the door
climb into the car
and back down the drive

I could turn right or left
and loop directly back here
somehow climbing uphill
both ways

with water always at my right hand
an eagle soaring overhead

and if I venture further
past the pentacostals and jehova’s witnesses
the elementary school or the gas station
speed down the hill or up
the road will bring me here again

larger loops radiating
as if a stone dropped in the lake
on a still day
I might as well stay

An Irreplaceable View

Tonight is the Poetry & the Creative Mind Gala. It’s free.

The NaPoWriMo prompt for today is to imagine looking through a window, any window, and describing what I see.

The PAD prompt is to write an evening poem.

Over at the A to Z Challenge they’re playing the Yes Game. My Janus word is yield which can mean; to give up, surrender, or relinquish, but also; to produce by natural process.

Today is Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub where you can share your best recent poem and read and comment on all the great poetry being shared.

This is the window

with the slightly broken sill
covered in flakes of pop-corn ceiling
with semi-sheer blinds that when open
tuck up all wrinkled on one side
through this dusty, cobwebbed window
revealed by off-white sheers belted to hooks
where a speck of a beige-dotted bug climbs
there’s a once thought impossible view

because for my whole life
it was blocked by next door’s tall firs
providing cool shade lakeside
my great aunt told me
she did it on purpose
to hurt her brother next door
a family feud of unnatural proportion
wielding God’s power one sibling on another
imagine each day’s hurt never recovered

But they’re all gone now
and I can finally see past
the iron railing, the rhodie, and the hedge
to the rippling water, a dock, and a buoy
to the houses and the park, but above that
what this table was so long deprived
is the sky filled with mountain–
ignore the threatening volcano inside–
massive contrasts of blue and white
glacier and rock, snow blanketed slopes
it’s never not amazing, not one single time
I look, even hiding behind complete cloud cover
when a stranger wouldn’t know it’s there

I tried to think of any other window
where I would rather look
and suddenly, I am in the international
space station, looking down on Earth
my body is confined, but my view
through this small portal is as if
the eye of God. To see the sphere
its atmosphere floating in the void
to know the glorious insignificance
of momentary stresses, bringing
overwhelming strife, but seeing
all connection of a day in life

But there’s no coming back from that
I’ve already known what new seeing
can do, would I want to add that fractured
knowing too?

I only have this window for a ticking-clock
of time, I want to be aware, to take in each tick
of this view while it’s sublime, the years
of firs blocking the way flew so quickly by
knowing there are limits, a coming end
erases the flaws in the pane, even the
baked-on bird gifts that won’t scrape
with a blade, all I see gleams
this view holds a vivid shine

So Many Questions

The NaPoWriMo prompt for today is to write a poem that poses a series of questions. The PAD prompt is to write a remix poem. These should work well together. It’ll be interesting to look back through this month’s poems and see which questions spring to mind.

My Janus for the A to Z challenge is the letter X which can mark a spot, or delete it.

Heightened Senses

What sense would I heighten if I could?
Which sense is the villain of my story?

Which smells trigger my memories?
Are they pleasant smells or foul odors?

What color tints my vision?
What do I see in the clouds?

What is this ringing in my ears?
What voice do I hear in the dark?

Which word tastes best in my mouth?
What flavor was the glue?

What texture represents me?
Why do I step on broken glass?

How far do I want to see clearly?
Which frequencies would I choose to hear?

What are the tastes I would enhance?
Could there be a dial for only pleasant smells?

If I sign by the X and everything would be as soft as Levi,
would I heighten a sense if I could?

To Believe or Not Believe in Obscure Sorrows

A cluster of tiny blue wildflowers
The Weeds I Won’t Mow – by Maria L. Berg 2021

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to find inspiration in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows . Both “sonder” and “occhiolism” made me think of the same thing, so I guess that’s the inspiration.

The Poem-a-Day two for Tuesday is:

  1. Write a believe poem and/or…
  2. Write a don’t believe poem.

At the A to Z Challenge they are turning their thoughts to what’s next. At the end of the challenge in May, I’ll be back to my revision focus. What is your revision plan? What is your revision process?

The Janus phrase for today is wind up meaning (1) To start; (2) to finish.

The poetics prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub today is about poetry as a bridge and includes the puente form. Here’s hoping it will help me bridge all my ideas.

A close-up of purple heather flowers
To Know Every Heather Flower – by Maria L. Berg 2021

Overwhelming Possibilities

Each time I try to imagine the life of every human
I wind up faced with the limitations of my perception
I thought I might start with those in the houses
I see, try to have empathy for their children and spouses
a plot at a time, from the blue rambler to the three-story brown
but that’s already too much, overwhelmed I shut down

~because I don’t believe it’s possible~

to know every tiny blue flower along the drive
or each of the purple heather visited by bees
it would take all my time to give each a name
recognize each quality that is not the same
and that’s but the surface, as precious and delicate as we are
we may as well be numerous as the heavenly stars

The “news” Makes Parody Easy

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a parody. The PAD Challenge is a title prompt: “(blank) World”.

Over at A to Z Challenge there’s a challenge to add some variety to the day. One of the options is to try a new kind of exercise. I saw cardio drumming for the first time on a mystery show from New Zealand. I have a yoga ball and drumsticks. I think I’ll give it a try.

The Janus word for today is vault (1) A small locked box; (2) the expanse of the heavens.

My parody was inspired by a silly thing Larry Kudlow said. After watching the segment, he may have been making fun of “plant-based” as terminology and not saying the ridiculously stupid thing he appears to be saying, but my poem’s a parody and the idea is funny, so his original intent can linger as nonsense either way.

Lest a Green New World, All Must Fear the Plant-Based Beer

We’ve all been warned
it was on the “news”
from that treasured vault,
got those TV views

Do not listen to scientists
if they don’t agree
but he says there’s a study
that supports, soon we’ll see

They’re coming for our summer meats
no more family bar-b-q’s
We’ll be roasting brussel sprouts
and then what chaos ensues?

That’s right! We’ll be drinking
plant-based beers
removed of all that tasty flesh
or at least that’s what Larry hears

No more hamburger in our hops
no more bacon in the barley
no more yak shank in the yeast
might as well cancel all the parties

No fermented flank steak
or bubbly buffalo wings
Absent the Angus ale
and the joy a perfect pork-loin pint brings

How will we get a buzz without
a beefy broiled Bud
and what will tint the goggles
if there’s no sirloin in the suds?

*After writing my poem, I found this post about beers that are brewed with meat. Gross, but I felt it should be included.

Exporting Flying Dreams

NaPoWriMo has a fun prompt where I’m to find an article about an animal and replace the animal name with an abstract or other specific concrete noun. The Poem-a-Day challenge is to write a question poem and my Janus word for the A to Z Challenge is unbending; meaning both rigid, inflexible, refusing to yield or compromise, as in “his stance against reform was unbending”; or becoming less tense, relaxing, as in “unbending a little, she confided…”

Capturing Rainbow Butterflies (2020) bokeh photograph by Maria L. Berg
Capturing Rainbow Butterflies (2020) bokeh photograph by Maria L. Berg

Flying Dream Felons?

Though flying dreams
are not endangered,
they are vulnerable
because their habitats
are vanishing

a concerned citizen
called authorities
after noticing boxes–
flying dream traps–
on trees in Florida

Americans aren’t the only ones
who find dreams adorable
they’re small, furry
exotic notions
valued and thought of
as pocket pets

while it is legal
to breed flying dreams,
in most cases, it’s illegal
to take them from the wild
and sell them to wildlife exporters

and flying dreams make awful pets
unbending in their
nocturnal enterprises, they
make a lot of noise at night
and they have sharp teeth

imagine how the dreams must feel
taken from their homes
and sent to foreign lands

Inspired by “Flying squirrel felons” by John Kelly, published in the Washington Post April 13, 2021.