The initial post introducing the ideas here occurred over on Poetry Thesis Musings, a blog about it being self-defining. Go ahead and take a minute to read that; it’s short, I promise.
Now that you’ve read the initial post, walk along this exploration with me. The beginning of this journey is about the act of close attention. As just about any poet will tell you, close attention is one of the primary aspects of writing poetry. Another way to say this is that poems do not unveil themselves without your hard work of paying attention to the world around you.
But what does this have to do with revision?
Good question, you! Where ecstatic creation in the face of the results of close attention (a good example is found among the Beat Poets) may result in much earnest poetry–and even very good poetry–the act of revision asks for close attention to the poem, the poet, and the subject of the poem. Revision forces the poet to decide, to act, to reflect, to unveil, and to question.
1. To Decide
Revision asks the poet to decide changes must occur to his draft. The poet knows the draft–the poem–is not successful yet, and so he must change the poem. He might wander down the path of revision, approaching many forks, and at each she must decide the proper path for the poem. Engaging the decision to change is the first step, and deciding on those changes is a constant engagement as the poem is brought forth. //you see what I did there? that was on purpose//
Does decision on its own beget close attention or creation? No. But in concert with the rest, and as instigation for the rest, it does.
2. To Act
What is the quote? “To act is to move mountains.” I don’t think that is right. But what it comes down to is acting on the results of decisions and close attention. Making change occur in the world is the way humans affect it, and even changes as small as removing a period or moving a line break may have larger ramifications.
A poet in the midst of revision is making constant decisions to act or not to act, to effect change or not. This is not idle bullshit. This is the stuff life is made of–decisions and actions. Unlike almost any other profession, the Poet, the Writer, the Artist, is one of the few who can claim sole responsibility for her work.
Revision is the path by which the Writer makes this happen. Acting and deciding are codependent in this process, meaning they work together to create something new. Is the end result not a different poem than the beginning material? There is a reason Whitman continued to change his work, and that is because each change he made created a new work altogether.
To be continued…