Tomorrow I have a Poetry exam and in addition to a writing portion, which no one in the class is quite sure what to expect from, we have to turn in a portfolio of all the poems we’ve worked on during the semester. For our class, that’s 8 poems total, and 5 are required to be revised.
I’ve been posting the poems from class for the last few months, and the revisions. So I’ll list out the poems that I wrote for the class:
Poem #1……So Goes Nature (was once, Stay Unconscious Body Actions)
Poem #2……Milwaukee Father (was once, Milwaukee Times)
Poem #4……Argument in the Snow
Poem #5……Fighting the Static
Poem #6……44-degrees of Scoliosis at Age 13 (was once, A Monster Inside)
Poem #8……Paralyzed Forever (was once, Halo Braces)
When we present our portfolios we have to explain what we’ve learned and our writing process. I’ve really learned a lot, which I know sounds cliche, but I have. I’ve added to the list of poets, writers, authors I have to read and the poems that I’m familiar with.
I’ve also learned a lot about my writing process. I think I like to brainstorm and jot down events that have happened to me or thoughts I have or conversations I overhear or events I observe. I keep a little notebook, like a moleskine but cheaper, on me at all times, just in case I overhear a nice snippit of a conversation or that person looks like someone I’ve been thinking about for a character. Farther along the writing process, I often choose to write about real events that happened to me. I write in the confessional vein. I’ll sit at the computer, type things out in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, think Faulkner. But I try not to leave the poems I actually get around to forming and shaping in that kind of discombobulated and confusing style, because that is just how I get my thoughts out. I often write for theurapeutic and cathartic reasons, so this is a way to get out what I’m thinking and feeling. Then, once I have something on the page, I mold it and keep some things and save other things for later, or just for a “getting out process.”
The things I choose to keep I work with more intensely and focused. I focus on line tension, word choice, events, metaphors, details — things that will give the readers a picture of what I’m trying to say, trying to describe, trying to “tell” them through my writing/poem. Sometimes I write in a certain form, with a set number of lines, or a set word or phrase that starts each stanza, or ending stanzas in questions — but most of the time I write free verse, as I find it more, well, freeing.
Before my last creative writing class, last year, I used to not go back to my poems and revise. I would get them out, focus a little on how they looked or the lines, and then be happy with them. Sometimes it worked, but most times they weren’t of much significance. So the revision part of writing is greatly important to forming the connection to other people, to polishing a poem or piece of writing so it looks, sounds, and is better than before, as good as it can be.
From these classes that required revisions I learned that revisions really make the poem, or writing. Going back and revising again and again is such an important part of the process, as you begin to decide what’s the most important, what can be thrown out, what words really create an image, etc. I now see that poems, that writing, is never really finished, you just decide that you can’t or don’t want to revise anymore, that another revision won’t really change much or add anything.
So for all of you working on your writing, good luck on your revisions! And share your process! I always like learning about how people write, create art, decide to focus on a certain thing to research, etc.