To Cut or Not to Cut

After reading A Broken Thing, I have come to learn that we must fall in love with each line we write in a poem. Each line requires the same whole-hearted devotion that the entire work needs; not just puppy love, but lasting love. It must endure the decision to be cut, wadded up, and thrown into the wastebasket with a million other unfinished lines. By surviving draft after draft, each line proves to the poet that it is worthy of its spot on the page.

Unfortunately, our peers do not always show the same adoration for every single line in our pieces. During workshop, some lines are met with “knocks,” while others are tossed to the side. While the critiquers always have the poem’s best interests in mind, they have not developed the same relationship with the line as its creator. Thus, facing the decision to either cut or keep a beloved line can be rather difficult.

When is it warranted to keep a line that others believe should be thrown away? Do you always go with “majority rules” and cut lines that are met with overwhelming disapproval? Do you start a new poem with the exiled line? Or do you edit it slightly, to keep the backbone of the line alive, rather than dismissing it completely?

One Reply to “To Cut or Not to Cut”

  1. Interesting question! I think for me it depends on the context. Personally, I think I tend to just cut lines, and completely rewrite poems instead of keeping many lines. I completely agree, responding to feedback is difficult. If no one liked a line but I did, then what? If everyone liked a line but I don’t like it anymore, should I cut it or keep it? I think that while thinking about what the majority thinks is definitely a good idea, you can also take into account your own opinion about the poem. You thought a lot about the poem when writing it, so your opinion is definitely important to listen to too. Finally, I really liked the last idea you said, of starting a new poem with the exiled line. I think that’s an idea I should use in the future, because if there are lines that are interesting but don’t fit into the poem, maybe they can fit and work in a new way in a different poem that’s written specifically around them.

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