Yesterday, I went to the Just Poets monthly meeting to hear a lecture on revision by Kitty Jospe. Kitty just completed an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry, from Pacific University (2009), and I was interested to hear what she had to say. I took a lot of notes, most of which were in homage to her mentors: Ellen Bass, David St. John and her favorite poets, and her reactions to learning how to revise.
Revision is the challenge to "dig deeper" and unearth whatever you're not doing-- to shake up something in your subconscious. To look for the poem's aperture (opening in the poem) and see if something more wants to come out (David St. John).
Look for the unspoken tension-- that's where you want to invest(dig deeper)-- how does one create more tension? Ask the questions: Where's the heat? (Marie Howe) Where's the out cry?
In revision, "practice staying submerged." Think about how you relate simple information. This
could be your poem's setting and word choice in creating the setting. Think about the way you move metaphors forward. Many poets have trouble with this, either mixing metaphors or not paying attention to the order and incident in their poem's narrative-- how things build in a poem.
Think of poems you love, and figure out how you feel included in the poem. When a poem includes the reader, investment occurs. This is an important note to pay attention to while revising. Ask yourself: does the poem engage others?
Take time to notice and wonder about the poem. Kitty says, we should practice noticing and wondering-- I agree with her. She says, notice three things. I think three is a good number-- you can remember three things without much trouble. More than three and you're creating a list.
Kitty talked about drafting the poem in several points of view-- allow discovery to occur in each draft.
She said, quoting Sharon Olds: "Ask each word: can you leave?"
I think I do a lot of revision while driving. I have such long commutes that I often think about my drafts when I'm on open roads-- reciting the lines in my head, actually editing. So when I sit down to write the draft is quite realized.
Interesting though, I haven't brought any poems to workshop at the JP monthly meeting for three sessions now. Not that I'm not writing, rather I'm not ready to present the new work.
Maybe by the March session, I will be ready.