poetry and prose about place

revising poetry

with 2 comments

After a full month of working on my artsnb project ‘garden escapes,’ I am conscious of the passage of time. My deadline is November 1, 2020, and meeting this deadline requires completing the poems and other deliverables.


At this point (I began on July 1, 2020), I have completed my field work (visits to various abandoned communities), done drafts of 70 poems, placed these poems in seven tentative subject groups, and considered how I will approach revisions. I know I will also write a few more poems based on material collected.


The subject groups (not in order) are:

  • all that remains
  • my mother’s garden
  • invaders and volunteers
  • the gardener
  • whispered stories
  • a glimpse of history
  • the shape of a garden



I meet regularly with a writing group known as Wolf Tree Writers. I have read a few of the poems at these meetings and received lots of suggestions. I think the most important suggestion has been: ‘ask yourself, where is the metaphor in this poem?‘ I have taken this idea seriously. I do want these to be poems about communities and garden plants. But each poem has to work harder – it has to comment on some social truth addressed (the metaphor).


When I began this work, I spent a full day on metaphor, considering how garden escapes would relate to issues or problems we face as humans.  The fundamental requirement for a garden to escape is – it must be left alone to decide its own fate. In our lives this could be a metaphor for:

  • accomplishment – you can write a song, but you have to let it go to see if it will flourish. This applies to the results of various endeavors: paintings, quilts, stories. Collections are a particular type of accomplishment; people often belittle ‘stuff,’ but I think particularly of things passed on from one generation to another (jewellery, books, souvenirs). Like the plants in a garden, accomplishments must make it into the right hands, the right conditions of soil and sun.
  • influence – you can talk to people and try to nurture them, but only time will tell if influences take hold. Some of our influence is directed and purposeful; you can try to be a good teacher to your children but eventually they must leave home and only then will lessons take hold or wither. Gardeners will plant a scarlet runner bean and end up with a lupin; parents can plant a ‘carpenter’ and end up with a ‘financier.’ So much of influence is accidental, transferred by chance. Think of influencers like ‘kindnesses,’ ‘chance encounter,’ ‘place’ and ‘accident.’  Also, ‘influence’ must be abandoned for a while and then re-discovered and the value found.
  • abandonment – the abandonment of children/family can occur in so many ways: adult children lose their parents, children are orphaned or abandoned, parents are left to fend for themselves as they age. Each of these situations can be examined using the metaphor of the abandoned garden.



So my first duty in revision will be to examine each poem for the embedding of metaphor. Sometimes the metaphor will already be there. Sometimes I will need to add a phrase or line for clarity. Sometimes the whole poem will have to be reconfigured to include a clear idea of metaphor.


When more substantive revisions are done, I have a revision checklist aimed at detailed revision.


revision checklist

  1. take out ‘which’ and ‘that’
  2. remove weak verbs (‘to be’)
  3. consider removing small words (‘the,’ ‘a,’ ‘so,’ ‘etc.’)
  4. try alternative words – words to contribute more
  5. exchange words used more than once with synonyms
  6. remove adverbs (many are ‘ly’ words) and gerunds (‘ing’ words)
  7. read aloud – watch for phrases or ideas that ring bells – may make it better/worse
  8. be truthful – when it isn’t right, return to truth
  9. check if singular or plural is correct
  10. consider passive voice – does it drag it down?
  11. check voice (child, scientist); don’t switch within poem
  12. consider end and embedded rhyme – select better words
  13. consider rhythm; count beats/syllables and read aloud to identify cadence errors
  14. for poems written in a particular form, check conformity to form



All of this is a continuing process. Even when I submit those ‘final’ poems with all their revisions, I may continue to work at poems for years!!!!


This work is accomplished as part of an artsnb Creations Grant.


All my best.

Stay Safe.

Don’t get COVID fatigue.


Written by jane tims

August 21, 2020 at 7:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Wow, Jane, you have shared so much experience and wisdom in describing your thought process and work process. Just wow. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Jane Fritz

    August 21, 2020 at 11:29 am

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