The end of the year calls us to recall our past mistakes just long enough to learn from them, forgive whatever needs forgiving, and move on to the new year with fresh vision. The same might be said of poems that didn’t quite click, so before discarding them, let’s see if we can learn something from them and maybe even find new or renewed vision for re-vision.
How do we do that? How do we regain what’s needed to see or hear our poems – clearly as they are, and not as we hoped they might be?
Most likely, the strongest of your senses helped you to begin a poem in the first place, so another sense can now help you to revise. If, for instance, you have a “poetic ear,” your poems will express that natural sense of musicality or rhythmic beat. If you have an “artistic eye,” your poems may paint visual lines. If you’re a keen observer or have an analytical mind, you might find fresh comparisons in a simile, metaphor or other figure of speech. If your feelings provide your dominant sense, your expressive poems may speak to and for readers, saying what they cannot express well themselves.
Regardless which of your senses prevails, go with it. Let each poem flow to you with a new thought, musical phrase, sudden insight, fresh comparison, or whatever catches your poetic attention. Without censoring yourself, get your poem onto paper, then let it sit while something else occupies your mind.
When you return to a poem for re-vision, use another sensory connection – preferably one that’s opposite the original. For instance, if you have fluently expressed your feelings, let your mind now do most of the work as you analyze the connotations, sounds, and subtle nuances of each word in your poem. If your ear has been doing most of the poetic work, train your eyes to see what visual aids you might include.
By using one poetically attuned sense as you write a poem and another as you revise, your poetry can reach a new level of professionalism. More importantly, you may discover you connect with your readers in ways you had not imagined, for instance with humor, wordplays, sounds, insights or images that your readers will be glad to see and feel and hear.
Try these solutions too:
Read each poem or poetic text aloud.
Listen for anything that hinders the flow of sound or sense.
As you identify a problem, you will usually be able to identify a solution too, so be alert to that.
Correct any flaws, even if that means finding a new rhyme scheme for a traditional poem or recasting the lines in free verse.
Read aloud each revision.
If you’re not satisfied with the results, ask another poet with a similar level of experience to do a manuscript exchange, so you can provide each other with free feedback.
Also, consider getting a professional critique of your poems. An objective, one-on-one response from a well-published poet or a well-practiced poetry editor can help you to improve a particular batch of poems. In addition, you can use that same information to improve each poem you have yet to write.
May God bless your New Year with love, joy, and poetry.
©2010-2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.