So you’ve written a poem. What next? In today’s post, we’ll take you through some suggestions for creating a poem that’s focused, uses just the right words, and leaves your readers feeling changed.
If you’ve been following along in our series on writing poetry, then you’ve heard some myths about writing poetry and you’ve written your own poem. Congratulations! The process isn’t done yet, though. Any poet will tell you that they revise their poems a whole lot before they share them with the world.
What does it mean to revise a poem? “Re-vision” means to look at your work with a “new vision” or “new eyes.” It’s not about fixing spelling mistakes or making it grammatically perfect. Instead, revision helps you take the idea of your poem and make it more vivid, clear, interesting, and powerful. So let’s go revise!
Strategies for Revising Your Poem
Take a break!: Yes, really. Let your thoughts and feet wander outside for a bit, stare at some clouds, do some jumping jacks. Wait a day. Wait two days. Breathe. Write other poems.
Focus: In the last post on writing a poem, we talked about narrowing down your idea to one image or one moment. Think back to the image you chose. Is the whole poem concentrated on that moment? Focus it back around one idea. Cut any bits that ramble. If you have a section that you really like that doesn’t seem connected, consider tying it back to the main image, or else take those lines out and save them for a different poem.
Clichés, clichés, clichés: One reason poetry has gotten a bad reputation is because of the clichés that pour out of Valentine’s notes and Hallmark cards. Love’s a red rose, sure. As you read your poem, look for words and phrases that are overused. If you aren’t sure if you’ve got a cliché, try putting the phrase in quotation marks and searching for it on Google. If you get a million results, chances are you’ve written a cliché. Change those phrases so they express the same thought but in a way that’s new to you!
Read it aloud: Are there any places that are difficult to read out loud? Does the word order make you stumble? Rewrite those lines in a different order or using different words. Think about the overall sounds of the poem. Are they harsh or smooth? Growling or soft? Look up synonyms for words and play with the word order in each line until you poem sounds like you want it to.
End with a punch: The end of your poem should be the strongest part. Save the best for last, using your most heartfelt line or funniest thought there. Or add a twist to your poem by ending it with a surprising thought or a different way of looking at the subject of the poem. Leave your readers with a laugh or a smile or a tear on their face.
Rinse and repeat: There’s a story that Percy Shelley spent three hours revising his poem just to add one comma, which he took out the next day. Like Shelley, maybe you’ll change part of your poem and love it today but hate it tomorrow. That’s okay! Be sure to save your drafts. Keep thinking about your poem and revising until you’re happy with it.
Those are our tips for revising your poem so that it’s vivid, powerful, and personal. Now that you’ve written and revised your poem, check back next week for ideas of what to do next to share your poetry with the world!