The poem must resist the intelligence. /Almost successfully. — Wallace Stevens
Part I. –The Creator
Take risks. Yes, I know risks are risky but without it writing is lackluster. After deciding on an appropriate topic, describe it. Seek specifics. List time, place, recall dialogue, other sounds, thoughts and details. Include the yellow railing with the peeling paint and the big Grundig radio on that porch. Try writing with your non-dominant hand. Draw the scene to stimulate memory. Write in present tense even if you describe the past, this makes the scene more immediate. Write it like a film. Use images. Employ a hook. Tell it quickly. Try a free write after drawing and then integrate. Get that first draft down, the raw emotion and detail. Ignore perfectionist musings, spellcheck, revise later. Get out of your head; get into your heart. Pull out the best lines and images with a highlighter. And now, to change hats, we morph into our other friend,
Part II. — The Critic
Type the poem. Put on your critic’s hat. Print it. Get out your red pen. Look first for PVC: parallel structure, conciseness and sentence variety. Go over the Rough Draft Rubric and proofread for each item. Change verbs of being to action verbs. Avoid verbals and “ing” endings: both gerunds or participles. They are passive, not active, unless passive is part of your message. Count your images, then add a few more. Incorporate more than just visual imagery. Add sounds, smells, feelings, tastes. Employ some figurative language and an allusion. Circle three drab or puny words and upgrade with a thesaurus. However, do not go thesaurus-mad. Speak in your own natural voice. Reread the conclusion. Does it provide a sense of closure? Do NOT merely repeat theme or thesis, extend your thinking.
Be fastidious about your conclusion. This is your last opportunity to affect your reader. Also search for appropriate epigraphs on sites like quotation.com. Read aloud. Listen for clunky sounds. Review the rough draft checklist and worksheet sections. Add. You can always delete. Better to have too much than too little in a rough draft. Next Slay your darlings. Delete the deadwood. Read for coherence and focus. Throw out any gems that are redundant or not relevant. Print. Read again. Recycle this process.
Part III. –The Performer
Let it simmer for at least a few hours, preferably days. Print and mark it up again. Read it aloud, again. Celebrate and locate a supportive listener or workshop. Listen to feedback but remember this poem belongs to you. Writing is not obedience training. Ignore input that doesn’t work for you. Then revise again. You are almost home.