friday round up: revision, the power of vowels, and going to sleep with ‘Fire on Her Tongue’

Happy Friday, all. I am up in the pre-dawn silence of the house doing a bit of reading and writing before the kiddos wake and the onslaught begins. Here are some cool things I stumbled upon this week:

Revision. Donald Hall’s words echo continually in my ears: “If the poet wants to be a poet, the poet must force the poet to revise. If the poet doesn’t wish to revise, let the poet abandon poetry and take up stamp collecting or real estate.” For years, I’ve been reading (and trying to put into practice) everything I can about revision. And yet, there seems to be a dearth of specific, actionable advice besides “punch up the verbs,” “cut out any unnecessary words,” and “read it out loud.” This week, Diane Lockward has remedied that in her post about what is the right time to send out a poem. Her checklist for revision, and her practice of recording herself reading the poem and listening to the recording are specific and actionable. I never thought of recording and playing back — what a great idea! I also loved Traci Brimhall’s suggestion at Her Circle on revising “toward the strange” and her reference to Yeats’ approach of revising toward “a more passionate syntax.” Again, actionable — and somewhat contrary to the oft-used paradigm of drafting as the time to go wild, and revision as the time to tame the monster. Thank you Sandy Longhorn for the link to this article.

By the way, I found both of these posts through Internet rabbit holes. Just sayin’.

The Power of Vowels. Did you know that vowels control your brain? Go read this fascinating article that summarizes the research of linguists who have found that “humans instinctively associate pitch with size,” and that different vowel sounds “pull our brains” to different things (they give great examples in the article). I don’t know about you, but I plan to use this info not just in my poetry, but as a parenting strategy! (Ha! I’ll let you know how that goes).

Going to sleep with Fire on Her Tongue. I recently purchased my first eBook of poetry, Fire On Her Tongue by Two Sylvias Press. I’ve been reading through it each night before I go to sleep (well… and at other times, too). My understanding is that the editors, Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy, put together this anthology of living women writers completely paperlessly (say that 10 times fast) so that the volume is not only chock-full of great poetry, but its production had minimal environmental impacts. Pretty cool. Last night in the cold, dark waiting room of the ballet studio, I read amazing poetry by the light of my iPad. From a wild ride through the gravy of the universe by Martha Silano, to a quiet, open-ended, and amazing meditation on “Anhinga Drying Her Wings” by Peggy Shumaker — and everything in between–, I’m enjoying the portability and variety of this anthology and the excitement of finding so many new poets to read and learn from. Let’s hear it for the girls!

That’s it for today’s round up. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

6 thoughts on “friday round up: revision, the power of vowels, and going to sleep with ‘Fire on Her Tongue’

  1. Great links – thanks!

    The double-edged sword of revision… It’s tough to instill in the poet the possibility that the instinctual first draft is the best. Revision is a difficult, but often positive, process. However, anyone that says one needs to “punch up” one’s verbs should be prepared to take a punch in the linguistic nose to see if it makes them better as well. “Punching up” implies doing violence to poetry and language, rather than strengthen intent and meaning.

    • CitricSugar, I guess I always considered the “punch up the verbs” bit to mean the type of punching up we do to couch cushions — to make them fuller, less slouchy (I am right now sitting on a couch whose cushions need punching — it is flat and slouchy indeed). But I think you’re right that revision can be overdone if we’re not careful. And yes, we should be open when the rare and magical first draft comes out pretty well-baked.

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