Revision Pangs: The Ouch-ness of the Revision Process

Last friday I had to turn in some new poems to my poetry class. I’m taking poetry this semester with poet Amy Gerstler, who is a visiting professor while Maggie Nelson is away on leave. Not only is Amy my poetry professor this semester, but also my mentor, as Maggie was before her leave. Although I miss Maggie’s guidance greatly, Amy will bring a new perspective to my work. She is also really plugged in to the contemporary poetry publishing scene, from what I understand. I sent her the entirety of my thesis and we are going to discuss it one-on-one this Friday, after class. I feel a little overwhelmed by my thesis at this point–it feels unruly, a mess.

I think it feels that way because I know it is in need of revision. Revision is so very difficult and can be one of the most excruciating aspects of my writing process. I got some strong feedback the other week on a poem previously titled “Pulsar.” The poem needed radical revision, which felt disappointing while in the workshop because I was feeling like I was on a roll, really getting some good work done. Sometimes workshops can stymy me. Actually, they usually do. I am left with all of this information about how my poems aren’t working. People ask for things I don’t feel capable of doing. Etc. However, I set myself the task the other day of revising “Pulsar,” now tentatively titled, “Waking Up.” I moved some lines around, cut some things, wrote some new lines. Hopefully the work has improved, at least somewhat. We’ll see what they say in class on Friday. I hope the workshop will be fruitful.

I keep wanting to write more poems. If one poem fails, rather than revise it I have this impulse to just try and write a better one next time. That’s great in a way because it keeps me going with writing new work, but makes it hard when I need to go back and work on the older poems. And many of the older poems are worth revising. I think it’s just something that I’ll get better at with time.

Goodnight for now…


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