Revision with Sound in Mind

While perusing my poems again and beginning the revision process, I’ve realized that my poetry tends to be less thematic and more of a series of aurally pleasing sounds.  I think that’s why, as a poet, I have a hard time giving up the sequence of words in a line if I really loved writing them.  Therefore, the revision process is hard for me when I want to keep a line simply because it has a great rhythm or sound.  I don’t know if this is helpful, but I’ve compiled the list of questions I ask myself when I’m in the process of revision and I really want to keep a line:

  1. Is the sound this line is achieving already echoed in earlier lines/stanzas?
  2. Is it possible to acquire that sound with another phrase?
  3. Will another phrase convey the same feeling you want to express without a loss of clarity?
  4. Will my poem be successful as a whole if I simply cut this word/line?
  5. Do any other lines in the poem reflect the content of this line, but in a different way?
  6. How often have you used that word in your poetry?
  7. When was the last time you took a look at a thesaurus?  Try that.
  8. Will adding lines around this line/changing up the order of the lines and stanzas allow this line to do the work you want it to do?
  9. Read the poem aloud, does this line make your mouth do the work you want your reader’s mouth to do as it is read?
  10. Have others pointed out the flaws in this line?  Have many people seen the same issue with this line?

Happy revisions!

One Reply to “Revision with Sound in Mind”

  1. Hi Nicole!
    I think many of my poems are thematic but have recently become more sound oriented. I guess I’ll just comment on some of your questions and why I find them helpful:
    For question three–I find this to be particularly difficult. I’m always trying to be get a clear message or emotion across and I don’t want to risk losing that. Sometimes when I’m looking for different phrases to use I’ll flip through my journal and see if any of the snippets I write throughout the day can help.
    Question 6 and 7: This drives me insane!! Sometimes I want to use a word twice but I know it will sound too repetitive if I use it again. For example–in one of my poems I was revising I wanted to use the word “thaw” twice because I loved the way it sounded and it was a clear image. I used a thesaurus to look up words with the same meaning and found that instead of using thaw twice I would use “soften.” This contributed to the ominous tone my poem was already hinting at and I was glad I could further expand it.
    I think these are all great ideas, Nicole. I’ll def be looking back in revisions!

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