Revision Techniques

I love the recommendations I get from my peers in Workshop. In regards to my line breaks, I’ve been given suggestions for my specific pieces that really make them into a more cohesive unit; the breaks are lush with hesitation now, provide a sense of emphasis that I’ve glossed over. But I wish I came to these conclusions myself.

Throughout my college career, one of my biggest issues regarding my poetry resides in the inability to revise a piece in a completely new way. I get stuck to the “darlings” I’ve created. And more often than not, workshop rounds in college tend to offer good, if not invaluable, suggestions to the pieces in which I’ve presented them. Unfortunately, I’ve only witnessed a few of my peers in the last 3+ years suggest radical revisions to the pieces we go over, or provide any revision techniques that might aid us in the future.

Besides the bare-bones techniques we were introduced to at the start of our careers as undergraduate students, revision is this ubiquitous idea that exists in a state of obscurity; which technique should I use that will truly help take this piece to the next level? The answer is unhelpful: any of them can help your future writing. This vague sense of infinite possibilities can seem welcoming to some, but to writers like me, I have forgotten what revision can be. Eventually, we’ll leave college and we won’t have an arsenal of poets waiting for us in class on Mondays and Wednesdays, ready to offer A+ suggestions. We’ll have to revise on our own, and I seem to have forgotten how to do that with my poetry.

I was inspired by the reading by Espinoza in Rosko’s A Broken Thing. Here, he talks about an undergraduate professor who led them through a revision exercise that involved physically chopping up the poems the students had written in an attempt to reimagine the works. It was a process, which stuck out to me. They had to look at one of the scraps of paper each day. Espinoza ended up completely tossing his.

I guess, at the end of my long rant, my question is this: how can we re-learn how to revise when our old techniques are no longer working?

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