As I’ve been going back through my poems from this semester, picking out which ones to use and revising the ones I choose, I find myself feeling disappointed with a lot of my earlier poems. I think that this is in a large part because I usually like to put more time in between when I finish crafting the first draft of a poem and when I revise it, and also in part because I feel that I am in a rapidly growing and changing period of flux in terms of my style as a poet. I also think that this feeling is related to the volume of beautiful poetry we have been reading in workshop, not only from each other but also from published authors.
Despairing about my poetry while gorging myself on poems from the Poetry Foundation website I came across an article that really helped alleviate this feeling. The author of the article (who’s name I have unfortunately forgotten) pointed out that we–young poets, the patrons and consumers of both contemporary and non-contemporary poetry–interact almost exclusively with final drafts (excluding workshop, obviously.) We don’t get to read Langston Hughes’ first draft of “Dust Bowl,” we don’t get to see how “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop came to be what it was, we (with a few exceptions such as posthumous publications) only read whole products that at one point a poet had looked at and said “this has been revised enough, this is good.” This idea kind of blew me away, I was amazed that I had never considered this before and it really helped me to feel better about my first and second and third drafts. I hope that this knowledge can help someone else feel better too if you are going through a similar process with your revisions!