Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Age of Poetry

I have this 'thing' about my poetry-- I complete ENDLESS revisions. Friends of mine categorize this 'thing' under my "obsessive need" for perfection; and my fondness for revision may very well be partly attributed to my slight tendency towards obsessive compulsive behavior. What most people don't realize, however, is that I spend years developing relationships with my poems. My poems are like my children- always changing and growing, going through stages of infancy and adolescence to reach their adult forms.

The fetus of a poem can grow in my womb for more than 10 months before I even birth it. Like many poets, I must bury an experience in my mind for a while before I can harvest it and write about it properly. "A Clip, a Couple, and a Crack Head," for example, is a poem that I recently recreated from several fragmented versions of poem that I've had saved to my computer since 2007. That winter, during a college year, I experienced this overwhelming interaction with a crack head that kept my pen to paper and my fingers upon the keyboard for two years while I analyzed the situation. I've only just been able to more fully understand the shape of the way I felt in those moments and to put it into words that I can share publicly.

I spend so much time with my poems because I am at my happiest when I am molding written works of art. While reshaping my poems I try to adhere to the following guidelines for a healthy dose of creative revision:
  • Every editing and revision decision must help to create a more meaningful poem.
  • Every word ought to fulfill a purpose.
  • Every use of punctuation must appropriately contribute to the overall tone and message that I want my reader (or listener, in the case of performance poetry) to take away.
I love to spend hours upon hours editing and revising one poem to make sure it reads 'right'. I will not eat as I add or remove commas, periods, dashes, line breaks, and words. I will squirt water into my mouth from a squeeze bottle between multiple readings and revisions of the same stanza within a few minutes. It is like playing with magnetic poetry: moving one word within a set of words changes the entire meaning.

Given my passion for writing, I'd like to argue, therefore, that this 'thing' of mine, my "need" for consistent revision, is primarily fueled by my love of poetry and my love of thinking, experimentation, analyzing, learning and understanding.

In the same way that my mother will always see me as her "baby," however, I feel that I may always have trouble recognizing my poems as adults and just letting them be. Sometimes readers report that they liked an original piece of mine more than the revised one. Usually, I will sort of agree with the reviewer, feel disappointed in my work, return to the various saved versions of the poem along its journey and work on re-revising it.

Then I often become paranoid, wondering if a poem is suffering from my revisionist acts and fearing that this 'thing' of mine is keeping many of my poems from just being the ages they are meant to be. But I'd like to think that the saying "Things always get worse before they get better" is true; that most of my poems are just going through the acne stage of puberty, and I am applying the medication they need to clear up their skin. I know one day I'll let them go.Enter text here. Characters left: 0Enter text here. Characters lEnter text here. Characters le

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