A while ago, I encountered Anna Maria Johnson’s A Visual Approach to Syntactical and Image Patterns in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, up at Numero Cinq, which is a delight read and a feast in both its analysis and visual approach. This got me thinking how sometimes it is difficult to edit and revise poems, at least for me.
Although some poems come out into the world already polished (which doesn’t happen that often), most are just birthed unassumingly, and thus require a lot of nurturing and work-shopping before they are ready to be seen by others.
Thus comes my conundrum.
It is a known and quite frankly, a given fact that writers, and in particularly poets, tend to get defensive about their work, especially if these carry a personal weight, which they almost always do. Creative work must carry some sort of personal weight, otherwise it would be formulaic, boring, or worse, it wouldn’t be original. Then, if we are to spill bits and pieces of ourselves (and by that I mean our most vulnerable and unknowing selves) into our work, it is quite difficult to switch hats and become practical and objective masterminds (hence the need for editors).
If this is the case, how can one then be expected to review and revise her poems objectively and in a calm and collective matter?
The honest answer is, she simply shouldn’t.
Let me clarify: she could, but that would strip her piece of most of its emotional content, which is the meaty part, its life source, the only way it can be sustained and continue to live beyond the page.
Which brings me to my next point: could this be a revolutionary new way of revisiting particularly challenging poems? Being objective enough to edit a poem is one thing, finding patterns and poems within poems is another thing.
I pondered upon such thing before I realized what I had at hand: a way of revision that cut and split my new poems into whole new patterns, whole new texts.
This was not a difficult thing to do because I did not see or read the poems as if I was their creator, but as if I was seeing them for the first time, and reading them through colored patterns that took me to different directions and into new interpretations of my own work I hadn’t anticipated before.
So I experimented with some poems from my forthcoming poetry chapbook, Behind Walls & Glass, which was particularly difficult to write, and even more agonizing to edit (no matter how many times I read and re-read the poems).
I have captured some of the results here with pictures. We’ll see how different these poems will look by the end of this colorful new revision process.