Pick a line. Any line.
Now, consider it a poem.
The process of writing inevitably turns into the process of editing and revision. If I gave every line the tender love and care that I devote to each poem, perhaps I would not settle for mediocrity. Unfortunately, I have the habit of writing lines that fall into two different categories: my favorites and space-fillers. These space-filling lines would be exponentially more appealing as white space. Or quotes. Or abstractions. Anything but space-fillers.
As Patrick Phillips states in A Broken Thing, “the line is not ornamentation.” I must learn to write this in the margins of my poetry. This shall become my mantra. When my lines become space-fillers, or ornamentation, they lack “ground beneath [them]: the conveyance that keeps [them] going where [they have] to go” (190). In other words, each line must maintain enough momentum to propel the reader to the next line or the following white space. There is a fine balance between urging the reader forward and letting them linger. In other words, each line is a paradox– it must be fulfilling and yet leave them wanting more. While Phillips claims that the answer to writer’s block is to “write the first few words that will become the line, which will become the craft I need to carry on,” I happen to disagree. I believe that this is the starting point for lines that lack purpose. When contemplating the conclusion of a poem, Phillips reminds himself that he has just “one more line to make the stanza…five more feet to make the line…” (191). I believe that this approach subjects the poem to monotony. Lines written in this manner will lack spontaneity and craft. As a result, the blank space will transform into space-fillers– both of which are undesirable. Instead, each line deserves time to grow and reach its full potential. If I wrote every line with the intention that it was a poem itself, I believe that my poems would slowly lose their staleness. Cliches, ill-placed line breaks, and space fillers would all be eradicated from my work and only the lines that deserved a spot at the podium would remain. All in all, we must not forget that each line is a poem and must be treated as so.