poetry and prose about place


with 10 comments

Yesterday was a very windy day.  Some leaves have survived the gusts of wind, but not many.  It has been a short drama of color this year, with only a few acts remaining.  The maples still have some leaves, the poplars are just turning yellow, and the oak is only now losing its green.

While the wind was blowing, I was at my desk, revising some of my poems.  It is my least favorite phase of writing poetry.  I love the beginning, the first ideas fluttering around in my head, and put to paper.  The page at this point is a confused mass of words and phrases, squiggles and arrows.  I like these ‘pen and paper’ revisions.  There is something about the hand-brain connection, so I write and rewrite quite liberally.  By the time I commit the poem to the computer screen, it has already had five or six revisions.  Once on the screen, I move things around a bit, but I print the page to do the finishing touches.

I am quite orderly about final revisions.

First, I work on what the poem is saying.  This is so difficult for me, because I tend to write descriptive poetry.  I have to challenge myself to add narrative, or clarify deeper meaning.  Sometimes the poem gets a new title at this stage.  Unfortunately, I am rarely happy with the results of this step in the revision process.

Next, I do the detailed revisions and for this, I have a checklist to follow (see ‘revision checklist for poetry’ under about)… I know my own work very well and I am prone to repeating words, using passive rather than active verbs, and using the singular when I should use the plural.   I ‘press’ on each word in the poem, to see if another word will add additional meaning, improve internal rhyme, or covey a more accurate image.  I count syllables … sometimes small changes will accentuate or create structure … sometimes there is little if any pattern to the poem.  Lately, I am paying a lot of attention to the ends of the lines, trying to decide why I end each line where I do.

Finally, I read the poem aloud.  This helps me to hear the words, and discover where the rhythm is off, and to know when to include smaller words like articles and when to let them go.  Reading aloud also helps me with ‘voice’.  I often shift from a child’s point of view to the technical and I have to be wary of leaving my audience in a state of confusion.

The next step in the revision process is more enjoyable.  To do some final polishing, I read my poems to an audience.  Sometimes this audience is a member of my family and I listen carefully to their suggestions.  I especially think about bits they may not like.  I also read my poems to the members of my two writing groups.  They offer excellent critique and usually I make some revisions afterward.

When is a poem complete?  Perhaps never.  I still work on poems published years ago.  I guess I agree with Oscar Wilde who said, “This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.”

If you write poetry, how much time do you spend on revision?  What process do you follow?





a violent October wind –

every tree bleeds red,

bends northward


my books also lean

and the pencils in their holder

the colors in the hand-blown drinking glass


purple lavender, scent of summer

the flowers now dry

braided with ribbon



Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

October 12, 2012 at 10:58 am

10 Responses

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  1. I LOVE the third picture! The only poetry I ever write is haiku – I find the requirement of shortness helps me to choose my words carefully, as I have a tendency to go on and on and on…


    Barbara Rodgers

    November 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    • Hi. I love to on and on and I indulge in my poems. I rarely write haiku, but I love to read them… Jane


      jane tims

      November 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm

  2. Beautiful post, Jane. The images and poem are wonderful, and I enjoyed hearing about your revision process.



    October 18, 2012 at 11:27 am

  3. Your revision process intrigues me and gives me pointers. I tend to read the poem outloud each stage of the revision. Hearing it shows the faults easily. I write and re-write, check tense agreements and eliminate overused words, check the thesaurus many times and then have to leave it for awhile. I’ve not found a formal reading group or writer’s circle yet and feel the lack of that in my work. I can’t get far enough away from it to see it clearly. Your photos are gorgeous. And your poem is lovely, full of images and triggers to other images. Beautifully done.


    Carol Steel

    October 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    • Hi. You are right about reading aloud throughout the process. Also, the use of the thesaurus… I find the book version of the thesaurus more complete than the on-line version in Word. I hope you find a group eventually… or just start one yourself. Jane


      jane tims

      October 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm

  4. Hi Jane, Interesting, beautiful, and I love your poem. I’m revisiting some older poems and think haiku is helping me with longer poems (slowly). The photo with your handwritten poem is lovely too. Ellen


    Ellen Grace Olinger

    October 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    • Hi. I find the discipline associated with poetry helps tighten all my writing. Shorter poetic forms are especially helpful because their spare use of words trains us to be succinct and to search for just the right word. Thanks for the comment! Jane


      jane tims

      October 14, 2012 at 9:33 am

  5. Oh my, there is too much I like in this post to list everything! You have conjured up the feeling of settling into work at a desk on a blustery day, given us beautiful pics of this marvelous but fleeting time of year, and have had us all thinking about our editing process. What a wonderful quote from Ocsar Wilde; it says it all! And your reference to purple lavender reminds me of the thick patch of chickory along a bit of the northside trail I run along. I first noticed it in bloom shortly after you identified it in one of your blogs; the most recent time I passed it (on my final very long run before leaving for Chicago), the flowers had turned grayish white, but the plants were still looking strong. Of course, now I always think of you when I see chickory!!!


    Jane Fritz

    October 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    • Hi. Glad you like the post. The season certainly has us in its grip. We had a short sleet storm here today!!! I am always happy to be at my desk when the weather is poor. Jane


      jane tims

      October 12, 2012 at 9:24 pm

  6. Reblogged this on Voiceless in America and commented:



    October 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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