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Editing To or From?

What is is to edit a poem so it is not just tighter or different but what its own form is, so a poem has found itself?

It can vary infinitely, a novel boiled down until its ideal form is a haiku, or a freeform utterance finding its face in a sestina or sonnet or spoken word story or erasure text or boiled down to a overlaid layers of visual text.

Any communication can be made more densely packed or easygoing conversation or messed with to highlight out some aspect, sound or omissions or collecting repetitions, or making an emotive oratory arguments.

Poems don’t have to make sense but making ideas is sweet. One life to live so calling it in with an utterance that could be something special but ends up bland is kind of a waste of life. Because you can do anything, that doesn’t mean everything is equal.

No point has a prescribed destiny. If any direction is possible, how do you choose?

Communicating in an open loop is more interesting than a closed loops among internalized self. Writing is a dialogue. Reading a great deal helps so you know what other people typically gravitate to. A reader or group of readers or editor all can help tease out what is more standard and what is more unique or well-wrought.

As Erin Moure said in the video in the previous posts, by “collaborating you get rid of each other’s excesses”.

Interview with Stuart Ross at OpenBook has this snippet:

C.B. Forrest: What is the editor’s job and where are the boundaries between “editing” and “creating”?

Stuart Ross: This is a huge one, and I won’t do it justice at this moment. The editor’s job varies depending on the writer. Most important: the editor helps the writer to achieve most effectively what he or she set out to achieve. But you also have to call the writer out when you feel something is inherently flawed or lazy. Some writers you have to challenge.

Coming at this on a more straightforward level: the editor’s job is to correct spelling, punctuation, grammar; to weed out useless words and unintentional repetitions, and to smooth out lines and sentences, paragraphs and pages. Help the writing be as good as it can be.

And, as any good editor will tell you, the editor’s job is to keep hands off anything that doesn’t need changing.

A close read and a tight but sensitive edit to intentions.

Susan Glickman has a short piece on poetry on her site where she talks about poetry as something that is developing towards something rather than something composed from inspiration, reading, experience, reaction, etc.

“As with most beginning poets, he is so intoxicated with the lines that are given to him he can’t recognize that they must be lines to, not just lines from (the Muse, the Unconscious, whatever). Like the punch-drunk freshmen outside, he’s playing at beginnings.”
~ Susan Glickman, On Teaching Poetry

She describes a poem as formed enough to workshop once it has achieved, regardless of style or form, a balance of lyric motive and narrative motive to give it poetic weight.

I’d translate her words to mean a conscious editing until there’s a balance of what and how, to tell a story and to make a word music of sounds and rhythms. It sounds similar to what Barry Dempster was saying in his workshop last year — that poemness is achieved once you have an even weight of the poem among head, heart and language. Those are the 3 dimensions you need for the structure. If it is too clever, or too sentimental or too much in the head, or all the linguistic techniques but no content, it fails.

In her essay On the Line, she says, “Poetry is less concerned with the clear statement of thought than with the evocation of experience. As Auden wrote, poetry is “a way of happening.”

Editing a poem to get to one of its optimal shapes so it makes an experience, as close to primary experience as possible, not tertiary meta-report.

Related posts:

  1. Booky Infos Monty Reid will be reading from HOST, 2pm, Sunday at the Royal Oak II (by Ottawa U) at the Sasquatch Series. I expect those are his poems on the microscopic...
  2. Editing Rounds: Talking thru a Poem’s Edits As a one-time thing, I’ll take a page from Gillian and do a Watch Me Edit. My last workshop in the 4-part series on editing with Pre-Tree is at the...
  3. Editing vs. Spontaneity and Haiku “Writing, then, becomes meditative in the sense that experiences are recalled, and then described, again, without inference or evaluation. Most of today’s haijin speak of a deep experience consisting of...

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