Deep Revision: The Poem as Discovery
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Everybody revises, but then again what does revision really mean? Is it just good poetic hygiene? Tidying up the diction? Tightening a line? Lopping off or re-arranging stanzas? All of these can of course be important dimensions to revision, but there seems to me another way to understand and practice revision. This would be a revising that happens first within the writer’s mind, and then later becomes manifest in the poem itself. It might be a heretofore un-considered attitude toward a subject matter. It might be the result of the writer becoming more open to new ideas, forms, feelings, rhythms, associations and connections of all sorts. As a result something genuinely unexpected and important enters the poem. The sign of this kind of revision is that the poet has in the process discovered what she or he did not think was there waiting within the draft. This we can call a deep revision. The goal of our week-long intensive workshop will thus be to practice a deep revision of work the writer senses is not yet fully realized. It could be a newly-minted poem, or an older one. You could work on one or two poems over several days, or you could work on a different poem (or poems) each day. In the process we would aim to develop a repertoire of strategies for deep revision with future poems. We will in addition explore some examples and models of deep revision in the work of other poets, and with the same goal in mind. We’ll end our week with some reflections on the signs that a given poem might really be finished. Your writing sample should consist of three to five poems that you think might benefit from some deep revision.
Fred Marchant is the author of five books of poetry, the most recent of which is Said Not Said (Graywolf Press, 2017). Earlier books include Full Moon Boat, The Looking House, Tipping Point, and House on Water, House in Air. Marchant has co-translated work by several Vietnamese poets, and edited Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford. An emeritus professor of English, he is founding director of the Suffolk University Poetry Center in Boston.