Yesterday I was reading back through some poems I had written in the past few years, and I realized that a ten-line poem said more about how I was feeling at the time than a two-page journal entry. This made me think about how words should be used with economy, and when we edit our work, we should always go back and try to pick out the best possible word to describe the feeling.
But when I write poetry (or when I used to write poetry, because I don’t anymore), I never write second drafts unless I’m going to polish the poem up and send it for submission (which I need to start doing again). I let my subconscious mind take over and write the poem for me, then I don’t even read it over after I write it. This sometimes results in terrible cliches and weird imagery that makes no logical sense. Other times, it results in me being amazed by how good certain lines are. But when I read the poem back a year later, I don’t even remember that it was in fact me who wrote the poem. I don’t remember exactly what person or what particular situation the poem was about. It’s like I’m reading words from another writer – or that I copied and pasted words from someone else into my journal.
I don’t know if anyone else gets that same feeling – that “I wrote this??” feeling. Writing instruction books say that it’s good to get distance from your work, but is that much distance a good thing? In some ways it is because you don’t even feel like you’re critiquing your own work, but in other ways, it’s harder because you can’t quite remember what the gist of the poem was about. I usually find an image from the poem I really liked and start expanding on that in the poem’s revision. Then the new and the old poem end up with totally different meanings.
But I guess whatever works to make the poem better is a good thing. 🙂