Editing Poetry: An Example

I’ve been spending more of my writing time editing my cancer poetry book.  It’s detailed and time consuming work.  I have input from my editor and am incorporating all the notes, edits and changes that were suggested.  Sometimes I can spend 15 or 20 minutes deciding if I should accept an edit or not.  Most of the time I do, but sometimes I say no, I meant to say that in that way.  Sometimes it’s a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

I offer the following as an exercise for the reader.  First is a poem I posted to this site last year.  Second is the poem after editing.  I leave it to you to decide if I’ve improved it.

All comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.


Dance

How to write a poem:

Dance with words
Lyrical steps
In time and space
Flow and spin letting the words dance

Dance to the beat
Measure the steps
Find the words that span
meter and rhyme across
dance

Dance, dance
short steps
repeat the steps
find the movement and let it flow

Release the mind and see the image
Hold the world in a word
Spin your partner
and see the word
Dance.

See the old prose
sitting on the bench
too large for its pants
stand and shed
reduce and free
and dance

Let your fingers dance across the keys
Don’t fear the music in your ears
Ignore the critic and just let the words
across the keys dance.

Move forward and back
and round and round
Take the idea in hand
and spin it round your back

Quiet now and listen
Hear the words whispered in the wind
Half-formed
Half-known
Half-yearning
listen and take up the word
and dance

Dance to your tune
FInd the word the is the rhythm
Tap it out
build on the beat
Add a juxtaposition

Dance to the meter
and let the melody
rise and take its voice

Now sing
and the poem takes form


How to Write a Poem

Dance with words—
Lyrical steps
In time and space.
Flow and spin letting the words dance.

Dance to the beat.
Measure the steps.
Find the words that span
meter and rhyme across
the dance

Dance, dance—
short steps,
repeat the steps.
Find the movement and let it flow.

Release the mind and see the image.
Hold the world in a word.
Spin your partner
and see the word
dance.

See the old prose
sitting on the bench
too large for its pants.
Stand, shed the words
and dance.

Let your fingers dance across the computer keys.
Don’t fear the music in your ears.
Ignore the critic and just let the words
across the keys dance.

Move forward and back,
and round and round.
Take the idea in hand
and spin it ‘round your back.

Quiet now and listen.
Hear the words whispered in the wind,
half-formed,
half-known,
half-yearning.
Listen and take up the word
and dance.

Dance to your tune.
Find the word that is the rhythm.
Tap it out,
build on the beat,
add a juxtaposition.

Dance to the meter
and let the melody
rise and take its voice.

Now sing
as the poem takes form.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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16 Responses to Editing Poetry: An Example

  1. nimi naren says:

    I enjoyed the original more

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, the analogy works beautifully. Poetry, like music and dance is something we sense and feel, is very innate. Although we can be schooled, expand and be enlightened, the essence, the groove, is very unique to each individual.
    I adore punctuation and think it conveys the writers intended message, tone, and emphasis. For that reason, I prefer the second.
    Trust your gut. You’re really good. Good to be unassuming and open yourself up to critique just the same. Xx

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  3. Harbans says:

    Juggling with words has been done magically with the best advice for an aspiring poet. Thanks sharing.

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  4. artseafartsea says:

    Actually I liked the first version best. It does dance more and it also grabs you and wouldn’t let you go. Just my opinion. Great poem though!

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  5. Put these two versions away and try writing the whole poem again, non-stop, from scratch….see what you get….

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  6. Annika Perry says:

    I do like this poem Andrew and enjoyed reading it through a few times. It was a bit tricky comparing them and involved a lot of scrolling up and down. As you say it must be your words and feelings on the paper and so can imagine rather difficult to involve an editor. The changes are good,slightly tighter perhaps but the only major couple of changes I did really like were the extended hyphen on two occasions and then the italics for the one ‘dance’. Great to see your writing featured.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts. There isn’t much difference between the two, mostly punctuation and a couple of minor word changes. I should see if I can make word press show the poems in side by side columns. Likely, I’ll put a few more of my poems up before I publish the whole collection. I loved the italics and the dashes. Wish I had thought of those.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I find it difficult to imagine an editor could contribute to poetry. It seems so personal. It’s interesting to hear your commentary.

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    • It’s not an easy task. Most of time you end up saying things like: “I think you were trying to say … but it comes out sound like …” It’s subtle and not as cut and dry as editing prose copy.

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  8. I find the first version more chaotic than the second version, but the first version dances more.

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