Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Revision in The Poetry Gymnasium

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I am not quite finished with this book, but I want to mention it now in case some of you might be interested in getting it as a holiday gift. This craft book would be a perfect gift for any poets you know who are looking for instruction and stimulation. Perhaps you yourself are just such a poet? Then treat yourself.

The book seems a bit pricey at $35, but it's a textbook so is priced as such. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't use it outside of the classroom. If you're a teacher looking for a good poetry textbook, this could be the very one. If you're a poet working on your own but hoping to expand your knowledge, this book really does contain the classroom.

If you keep in mind that Hunley offers 94 exercises, then the price does not seem so high. But there's more, much more. Each exercise is preceded by a rationale and some background (tons of information here) and then followed by model poems.

I found Hunley's revision strategies particularly interesting and exciting. I recalled and looked up Kim Addonizio's words about revision in Ordinary Genius: "If you don't think your work needs revision, here's a tip: Don't try to be a poet. You will never—and I mean never—be any good." Firm, but true. She goes on to say: "If you take your art seriously, you will write the poem again and again until you get it right, or as close to right as you can make it. Revision separates the professionals from the amateurs and the wannabes."

Sometimes, of course, that's easier said than done. You have the poem in front of you, ten drafts in. You know you've got something worth working on, but you're not sure what to do at this point. On page 52, Hunley provides a list of four suggestions. I immediately embraced the first and put it to use on two poems I'd been wrestling. Here's the suggestion for revision:
Reread some of your text. Along the way, collect five words or phrases from your text and freewrite on each word. Let the word or phrase take you anywhere. See if any of this new material helps you open up the draft; can you insert the new material at the point you find the original word or phrase? Somewhere else?I found this strategy very helpful in opening up the poem and forcing me into new thinking and material. I then incorporated some of the new stuff into the draft. To the poem's advantage, I think. Then, of course, some cutting was necessary. (I confess to not doing this with all five words or phrases. I revised the suggestion a bit.)

I think you'll also find much in this book to stimulate your own work.


  1. Thank you for spotlighting this. I will share your post with others I know would be interested in the book.

  2. I've been looking for a book like this outside of the roundtables I belong to. Thanks Diane!


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