The time has come. I’m in the final semester of my MFA program, which means that by mid April I need to complete my book-length poetry manuscript. I have to send in the latest draft of it on January 31st. Hopefully this will be the first time of many that I have a book due (the poetry world doesn’t often work that way, but I will be publishing in many genres, and poetry contests have due dates). In any case, there’s nothing like a deadline for motivation. I have a list of the poems that need work and a schedule for doing the rewrites. One poem per day, and about three a day on Saturday and Sunday.
During my latest Goddard residency, I attended a workshop by Bhanu Kapil called “The Art of Failure,” in which she gave three methods for revising (in essence – 1, rewrite your piece by starting over on a blank page – 2, rewrite your piece by taking one image or word and using that as a seed, or – 3, find a site in the work that seems blank & ready to be transformed and rewrite it as its opposite). I am summarizing here because I don’t want to steal all her brilliant ideas and I could never recreate her inspired words anyway.
The particular quote that she spoke and I wrote down word for word (it’s now posted above my desk) is this: “In revision, make a decision and then fearlessly commit to that decision. This does not have to be comfortable.”
Chris Abani, our amazing visiting writer, reminded us students that writing is 20% writing and 80% rewriting. He recommended approaching rewriting on a blank sheet of paper. “Often what you like in the piece may be what’s holding you back,” he said. Thank you, Chris.