Is a poem ever complete? This question is one I have struggled with through most of my years of writing poetry. As much as I love revision, it’s worth locking things away or sending them off as complete, because I might go back in and change things again. I have works I considered final at one point or another, only to find myself revising it yet again, years after the fact. I learned that it is okay to do that with poetry; however, we must come to a point where we feel it is time to share with peers and colleagues. Most of the poems I have posted here are considered complete – but I cannot guarantee that a year or ten from now that will still be the case.
A few years ago, I began to assemble a tool a toolkit of sorts that is comprised of tips, tricks, and suggestions from poets I have read over the course of my education, to help my poetry become more complete. In this toolkit, aside from revision techniques, I have added ways to draw more substance with my words, by way of freshening language and creating vivid, tangible images for my readers.
Now that I have the basics for this toolkit, I can take a better look at my work after the fact to see if I created a better poem by following the advice of my peers and the experts. A mantra I use when composing poetry goes like this: “Create. Freshen. Revise. Repeat.” It gets me through the process from start to finish.
Create – get it out on paper and make your images vivid; freshen – think of a way to say it in a way it’s never been said before; revise – use proven, suggested strategies to try new things; repeat – never stop – keep going, always creating, always freshening, always revising until I come to something final. I must repeat until it’s complete… or as close to complete as possible.
Repeating this chant reminds me to use multiple techniques to revise, freshen language, and create vivid imagery allow me to continue to develop and flourish as a poet. I can do this by using the techniques laid before me to create brilliant images, freshen my language, and revise in multiple ways (repeating) to create a poem fit for publishing or just personal enjoyment.
Over the course of the years, my revision process changed drastically. I have always loved to revise; the tricks I learned about this semester to push myself through the process have not only improved my writing, but have helped me to stay open to multiple possibilities of direction in which a poem can turn.; it all moves so quickly if we do not keep track. I constantly revise when I write (which is another simultaneous blessing and curse for my personal writing process), and especially with poetry, I cannot help but revise continually.
The only drawback I see with this practice is that I sometimes do not have each change documented to look back upon at a later date. This is why I prefer to write poetry by hand. I think people are crazy if they try to compose a piece of poetry on the computer, unless they are so disciplined that they do not revise as they go. If I use a computer to write, my tendency to revise as I go eliminates a piece of the writing process I need to further develop my poetry – multiple renditions of a piece in the early stages. I learned the hard way to save the various versions of my work, as well as the notes I’ve made on previous drafts. Saving my work in versions allows me to witness my poetry’s evolution from start to (almost) finished, which in turn further develops me as a poet.
One thing I struggled with as a poet was being fresh with my language and creating imagery for my readers, I often would find myself being plain and quite honestly, unimaginative. Over time, I have learned to re-see my poetry with different lenses, and to be more creative with composing a vibrant image on paper for my reader to appreciate.
Along with re-seeing comes the realization that my language changes from revision to revision, and I have learned to improve that piece of my writing process by updating my language to give it a certain sparkle, a freshness that readers need.
Once I surrendered to the process of re-seeing and rewriting my poem a few different ways and playing with different images, I realized I did have that imaginative, creative bone within myself to show versus tell my reader a story.