Note to self: the stanza is your friend

October 29th, 2008

I’ve doing a lot of revision lately – and I’m still enjoying the work of revision almost more than the work of creating new poems – and most of the revisions involve major changes to the form of the poems: breaking long free form poems into shorter stanzas, making each stanza a self-contained unit. Exercising this control tightens the poems, forces me to find the overarching idea and how each stanza contributes – or does not – to the development of that idea. It’s been wonderful, exciting. I even revised a poem using the “many two-line stanzas” form I’ve been seeing everywhere and, frankly, am skeptical of. But over the weekend I used it on a poem that’s been giving me trouble since the summer and wow, did it really turn the poem around. Forced me to cut extraneous language, tighten the narrative, hone the language; there is a growing tension now as the work progresses to the final stand-alone line. Okay, I get it. I still think it’s a form that should be used sparingly, but I get it now.

This is the work of revision, the hard glorious work of revision.


6 Responses to “Note to self: the stanza is your friend”

  1. Julia on October 29, 2008 1:05 pm

    I like revision too. It is the moment when I feel like I can concentrate all myself into the task, when luck and inspiration have simmered down and work can begin!

    Any peeks at your revisions?

  2. michelle@tangledwings on October 30, 2008 3:39 am

    i need to practice more revision…that seems to be something i struggle with. when i write a poem i have a hard time picking it up again.

  3. Elizabeth on October 30, 2008 5:06 pm

    I just found your blog and so enjoyed reading backwards! The look of it is great and your writing lovely. I look forward to more. By the way, I’m married to a Swiss-German guy from Mollis. I can’t imagine what it must be like as an ex-pat and look forward to your insight!

  4. Jennifer on November 1, 2008 8:44 pm

    Julia – I’ll think about putting some up password-protected – the ones I just finished working on are almost ready to go out the door to a journal, so I don’t want to put them on line.

    Michelle and Elizabeth thanks for stopping by.

  5. Julia on November 1, 2008 10:18 pm

    Totally understand!

  6. 2010: The Year of the Line Break at Magpie Days on January 8, 2010 8:26 pm

    […] About a year ago I started paying more attention to stanzas, to controlling the pace of my poems by introducing some breathing room. I think it made for some better poems; certainly thinking more closely about form, making decisions about form, made me a better poet even in those instances when I held on to the original version. Thinking critically about the way I write has to be a step forward, it has to be a sign of something. Growth, maturity, something. So I’m going to look at my lines more closely. […]

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