Wednesday, 28 July 2010

It's in the Editing...

I think I have finally realised what it means to be more rigorous with my poetry editing. The trick is: to learn how to recognize the weaker lines (not always as easy as it sounds); to get feedback about what works and what doesn't (what seems blindingly obvious to the writer may leave the reader completely flummoxed! The trick with that one is to detach oneself from the subject matter - especially if it based on a real place/person/event) and then to carefully question each part of the poem and look at how/if it is working, look for clichés (can you say it in a more unusual/interesting way?) check out whether or not your metaphors are working and whether they are conflicting with one another (for instance in a recent poem I had children swarming like ants but in the next line they were worming through a tube - these are conflicting metaphors that could confuse the reader).  

Another practice I have been finding really useful as part of my editing process is to look at each poem and try and write down what I think the imperative is. The imperative is not the subject matter - for instance the subject matter of the poem I mentioned earlier was a children's playground but the imperative of the poem is the loss of innocence - how things seems different as we grow up and how we try and hold onto that innocence.  It is not always easy to know what the imperative is, even of one's own poems and this is where work-shopping can be invaluable. Once your work has been critiqued it is good to try and explain what the work is really about (if it wasn't clear already). When I work-shoppped my poem about the playground for the first time it became clear to me by the end that the poem wasn't actually achieving the goal I had set it and I was able to rectify this with a few simple changes.  

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