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.

#NaNoWriMo Day 18: Frustration and Breaking Through Negative Thinking


Day 18
Word count: 34,783 words
Word count goal: 36,000 words
Mapping the Hero’s Journey: Reaction to Reward
Save The Cat: All Is Lost (old way of thinking dies/ false defeat)

#vss very short story

Quimby munched on his free fry. Every day, he walked to the Monster Burger, hoping he would get there first. They were always polite and nice and handed him a french fry, but they were always fresh out of monsters.

Plotting with Tarot

Today I went off script. I wanted to continue exploring the death of my character’s old way of thinking.

Reaction to Reward

Reaction to Reward: Eight of Pentacles- success through work

Does he feel he deserves the reward and where does that feeling come from: Six of Swords upside-down- Paralyzed by fear. You are trying to distance yourself from your problems and make a fresh start but you do not seem to be making any progress.

What does his Reaction to Reward spur him to do: Five of Swords- he is paralyzed by fear, but will break through negative thinking.

My interpretation: This reading made me laugh out loud. I can see a pretty clear pattern and theme. My MC gets rewarded and his reaction? Now he is free to get back to work! The next card makes me think that he is not sure if he deserves the reward because he has so much on his to-do list that he doesn’t believe he has really accomplished enough, or will ever accomplish enough. Receiving this reward, spurs him to break through his patterns of negative thinking.

Ask Your Character

inspired by The Me Journal: A Questionnaire Keepsake by Shane Windham

  • What things do you wish did not exist?
  • How do you break the ice with strangers?
  • What would you buy with a million dollars?

Word Of The Day

insouciance: n. lack of care or concern: indifference

8 Action Verbs:

applied               coded               debated               executed

informed            named             reported             summarized

Poem prompt

What frustrates you? Do a mind map about frustration. Does your mind map remind you of any of your characters? Use your mind map to guide a poem about frustration from either your POV or a character’s POV.

mind map frustration

Pay Attention

bang, hit, throw
they laugh
why are they laughing?
this is all I know
it worked before

scream, hurt, destroy
they laugh and say
“isn’t that cute?”
“he’s such a boy”
my lungs are sore

cheeks soaked in tears
and red with rage
they now ignore
turning to their peers
I sit in my filth

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Look at a chunk of dialogue from yesterday. Try to pare down 20%. Is it tighter? Does it still sound realistic? More realistic?

Today’s Simple Task

MC’s frustration: Another character breaks his or her trust. How will your main character overcome his or her mounting frustration?

Warm-up Exercise

Set your timer for 10 minutes. You have taken a picture of your Main Character. You hand it to him or her. Have your MC respond to the picture in their own words. Do they feel it is a good likeness? How do they feel about how they look?

Recommended Word Crawl

Howl’s Moving Castle Word Crawl

I admit, I wanted an excuse to watch Howl’s Moving Castle again.

Writer’s Life

Though today’s theme is about your character’s frustration and need to break through negative thinking, you may also want to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? I noticed some negative thinking getting through yesterday. Those stupid meanies in my head that tell me the writing isn’t good enough and I’m not good enough.

Those meanies have to go! They are no good for me or anyone. So how will I combat them? By doing some things that make me feel good. I did the dishes while I waited on the tea kettle and after I finish this, I’m going to get some good exercise; really work those negative thoughts out of my body and mind. Then I’ll wash them away with a relaxing shower.

I hope you can find a fun way to get rid of your frustrations and negative thinking today. And don’t forget to reward yourself for accomplishing all your small goals along the way.

Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober Day 10: Voyeuristic

writober day ten

by Gregory Crewdson

There is so much story in this image. Why is Dad outside, in a crazy patio garden, looking in on his exhausted family? Is that even Dad?

This image makes me think of the dysfunctional family in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind when Dad is throwing the plants into the kitchen to make his model.

Don’t forget #pessimisticmoustache. The title of this post might give you an idea for an ism you could use in your description.

#vss: very short story

The veil between the heavenly garden and his living-room grew thinner at night, but worked like a one way mirror. They never saw him. (edited to fit 140 char. limit)

(Original) The veil between the heavenly garden of the afterlife and his living-room grew thinner at night, but worked like a one way mirror in an interrogation room. His wife and daughter never saw or heard him.


Theme: Power And Control

Today’s prompt recommends using a mind map which is fun for me because last month I created a mind map graphic (feel free to print it and use it) for Geoffrey Calhoun’s guest post Power through Act 2: Tricks and Tips for finishing your story. 

I printed out my graphic and used the starting words from I set my timer for 10 minutes. Here’s how my brainstorming session turned out:

A mind map around the word "power"

Maria L. Berg’s Mind Map of Power

Ha Ha! I can barely read my own handwriting. I liked using my Mind Map graphic. It’s fun how the mind goes in unexpected directions. I think I’ll print a bunch more of those and do them for the #Writober flash fiction stories, and random words, and . . . I’m going to need more printer ink.

I thought the #Writober image and #OctPoWriMo prompt paired well today. Here’s my poem:

The Voyeur

He held her

Controlling her with his eyes

He saw everything she did

Power soared with his every shallow breath

In anticipation

Of the moment

She would recognize

The violation

His eyes held her

Pronouns – power and gender rolls

This theme and my poem made me think about the problems with power and gender-inequality, so I decided to change the pronouns in my poem.


She held him

Controlling him with her eyes

She saw everything he did

Power soared with her every shallow breath

In anticipation

Of the moment

He would recognize

The violation

Her eyes held him

Contrast and Compare

What do you think? Does the meaning change? Or is equal representation, equally creepy?


Where do you post your flash stories?

I have been posting my #Writober microstories on twitter at #vss. I hope you’ll join me.

flash fic day 10

graphic by Anjela Curtis

This last spring I wrote about the great online magazines I found a good fit with in #LitMag+ and LitMag+ the sequel. They even published some of last year’s flash from #Writober. I’m always looking for more flash fiction magazines. Which ones are your favorites? Please leave links in the comments.

I am finding these prompts very inspiring and I hope you have too. It’s never too late to join in all the fun #Writober challenges.

Any words on the page are words that weren’t there before.

Happy Writing and Reading!



Power through Act 2: Tricks and Tips for finishing your story.

Today we have a special treat, a guest post from award winning script writer and founder of, Geoffrey Calhoun. His advice applies to all writers milling about in the middle of their stories.

Finishing Your Script by Defeating Act Two

We’ve all been there. Stuck. Not sure where to go. Our lead characters milling about as they are lost in act two. Suffering in their own purgatory, begging us to usher them to act three. Do we cheat and jump a few sharks or dig some plot holes to get them there? NO! We will not allow that. We know better (cue rousing war speech soundtrack). We shall not stoop to that level. We shall not let our script be damned by desperation and deadlines. We shall not save the cat…because WE ARE SPARTA! (sorry, got a little excited) WE ARE SCREENWRITERS!!!

Then what do we do? Give up? Hell no! We get creative, and use a few tricks. Let’s get started. Everyone gets stuck. It’s normal. If you are a writer and don’t get stuck during your work then I’m going to pray for you. Because one, you’re not human (possibly a robot overlord) and two, your work is probably overly outlined which can result in a work that lacks a special spark.

Getting stuck is the worst, most annoying, terrible, frustrating, anxiety inducing, best, amazing, and euphoric thing that can happen to a writer. Many writers do extensive outlines to avoid getting stuck. This does work, but can end up giving you a story that is stale and lacks a certain creativity to it. We are not those people. We write from the heart. We pour ourselves onto the page. I’m a firm believer in writing a mini-outline, which is no more than 15 lines and minimally filled out. Then I begin my script and practically throw the outline away (I ignore it). I have a general idea of where I want to go and I let myself get there by allowing my inner creative spark to flourish. Inevitably it creates something amazing and beautiful. But eventually you can get stuck. Which happens around act two. That’s where everyone gets stuck btw. Writing through act two and not giving up is what separates a Youngling from a Jedi (I went there).

Mind Map

So, we’re stuck in act two. No biggie. Time for some free-form thought. I mind map. It’s fun. You put an idea (plot) into a bubble then branch out from those ideas which in turn have branches from those ideas and soon you’ve filled a page in twenty minutes with some pretty killer stuff. See the great thing about this is that my mini-outline gives me a general idea of where I need to go. Having that thought in my head while I mind map gives me direction. This approach forces you to creatively go to different places than you expected it. Which brings out that inner spark and makes your script more original and less predictable. So basically better.


Now that we’ve learned a nice trick on how to get out of a creative slump, let’s discuss a mysterious and ancient technique that we are already using. Many writers don’t realize what this technique is really used for. Are you ready…wait for it…SUBPLOTS. Yep. The big mystery is solved. You’re already using these. I’m not just talking about your B-plot which has tragically been downgraded to love stories (it’s actually the heartbeat of your script) but actual subplots. These are the added meat that get you through act two. Which is why they come in late act one and are resolved in early act three. Use your subplots with your supporting character. It does double duty this way. The supporting character gets developed more and we beef up our act two. You can even use a subplot that focuses on your antagonist as well. Oh man! Now we’ve got our main plot/the B-plot/a subplot with our supporting character/ and another subplot with our antagonist. 4 plots! Holy crap! We are going to be chewing through the pages of act two!

Now do your mini-outline, bust out some mind maps, throw in some killer subplots, and get out there.

Act two is the death star (oh no he’s going full star wars mode) you are Luke as he barrels down that narrow trench, your nav computer is your outline that you have to let go of, your mind map is the force…fire away. BOOM!

Great shot kid, now don’t get cocky

-Geoffrey D. Calhoun

Geoffrey is listed as a top 100 indie-writer Geoffrey Calhounin the world. He is a multi award winning and produced writer that is the founder or

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