Why Revising Your Poetry Is Not Always a Good Plan

Assembling the words to create a poem.
Assembling the words to create a poem. | Source

The Process

When you write poetry, you likely have a concept in mind when you begin to write the lines. You also likely have a favourite way to write, whether by pen and paper or by typing at a computer.

Some poets stand by the statement that you should never revise your poem once the last line is completed. Other writers explain that revision is a way to ensure the best product is created for any form of writing. My viewpoint is somewhere in the middle of the two statements; I believe that revising poetry is a good idea in certain circumstances but not in others.

Revision refers to looking back at the poem you wrote to see if it needs to be altered for style (spelling, grammar, and length of lines) and substance (creativity, and ability to clearly communicate images). To revise or not to revise, that is the question.

Your hands are writing so fast it's a blur. You are in the moment.
Your hands are writing so fast it's a blur. You are in the moment. | Source

When Revision Is Not In Your Best Interests

Caught Up In the Moment

You may find yourself caught up in the lines as you write the poem.

You are caught up in both the present moment and in the imagery of the words as they fly from your mind to your fingertips to write down the thoughts. When this happens to me, I find that the words are phrased in original ways. If I had stopped to think more between lines, I am unsure I could have come up with as many creative lines as I did when I was caught up in the moment.

Revision can take away some of that creative spirit. You may decide to tweak a few of the lines. During revision, you may decide that you want your poem to rhyme rather than be a free form style. The problem with revision is that you may change the initial spirit of the poem. The creative element can become lost when synonyms are switched up or grammar changed. The first take may have been the most pure and creative form of the poem. The initial words may have connected better with a reader for its raw quality than a revised version.

You may over-think the words of the poem.
You may over-think the words of the poem. | Source

Over-thinking Has Its Consequences

When you think too much about something, you over-think it. How do you know you are doing this? Likely you are taking a relatively simple decision you need to make and agonizing over it. You lose sleep. You are anxious, frustrated, and even become ill over your mental debates. You can over-think your poem as well when you revise the words.

You may revise to the point that you lose your original image or the message you first intended to convey to readers. You lose the message as you become farther and farther tangled into the written piece with each revision. Perhaps you get caught up in the length of the lines and swap certain words for other words to give the poem a more organized look. In the process, you may lose the connotations of the original words and feelings that would have been stirred within readers. Your audience may no longer connect with the poem. Pieces of meaning have been lost in the revision process.

When you over-think, you also may begin to question your original ideas. You could wonder:

  • Is the concept of this poem odd?
  • Will the reader connect with the poem?

Self-doubt creeps in. The doubt may increase with each revision, if there is more than one done. You actually can lose sight of the readers with each revision as you become more focused on the words themselves and move farther away from the original idea of the poem.

The Advantages of Revising Poetry

There is a time and place for revision in any writing process. While ideas and specific words, in my opinion, should not be touched after the poem is written, other parts of the poem can be improved by revision.

Spelling

Poetry needs to be believable to the reader. Being believable is shattered when there are spelling mistakes. Once the poem is written, take time to run your poem through a computer's spell check program. A miss-spelled word in a poem can cause someone to stop reading your piece entirely.

Capitalization

Correct capitalization rules for the language should also be followed. Revise your poem by looking at the title and proper names to ensure they are capitalized correctly according to the rules of the particular language. Some poets prefer to capitalize the first word of each line; if you do so, ensure all of these words are capitalized to maintain a uniform quality to the poem.

Use capital letters where needed in the poem.
Use capital letters where needed in the poem. | Source

Title

Poetry can also benefit from revision of the title. Sometimes I have a title chosen before I write the poem. After the poem is written, I may decide that the title does not fit the piece. I may change the title completely or only alter one or two of the words.

The title is important as it is the first part of the poem read by your audience. It is like a first impression. Create a title that captures the reader's attention and also relates to the content of the poem. In the case of the title, revision can strengthen a poem and may be useful.

The Revision Process for Poetry

While some poets may be against revising a poem for any reason, other poets complete multiple drafts of a piece before believing it to be complete. I believe that revision may be necessary to fix technical details of the poem, such as spelling errors and ambiguous titles. Revision, however, may be counter-productive when it begins to take away from the meaning of the poem or sets the poet into a state of over-thinking and anxiety.

When a poem is submitted for publication or tucked into one's own personal collection, the writer wants the piece to be of the finest quality possible. Keep that end goal in mind to help you figure out the best process for you personally regarding the revision of your poetry.

To revise or not to revise, that is the question.
To revise or not to revise, that is the question. | Source

Do You...

Do You Revise Your Poetry?

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Comments 20 comments

ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi Mary, I seldom change my poems too. Thanks for stopping by to read and share your comments. You are a good writer so I think your poetry is likely better than you realize :)

Audra, how nice of you to share this hub and comment. You are so kind. I love that you write poetry as well!


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I write very little poetry because I just don't think I'm any good at it! I would rather read the poetry of other talented writers. When I do write a poem, I just sit at the computer and go. I seldom change anything.

I voted this UP, etc.


AudraLeigh 4 years ago

I really liked reading your hub on revision of poetry. I liked how you considered all sides of poets who are reading this. I like writing poetry a lot. It is probable my best style of writing and what I am known for. When I came back to HP recently, I only had saved a few pieces from before. I put "White Magnolia Trees" back on, with a lot of revisions...had to be cleaned yp a lot! However, I stayed true to the plot of it./ I don't think it matters if there is revision as long as the reader likes what you have written. Today, I like what you have written CW :)


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

PDX, I think that having so many perspectives on the poetry writing process is great! I knew this hub would turn a few heads and glad to see so many people are passionate about poetry. Love reading and reading it. Have a great day!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

While you've offered some good cautions when revising poetry, I find it's absolutely essential to revisit a poem sometime after you've written it. I've written many hubs on the subject. My favorite part of the writing process is revising and a skilled reviser can keep the original feel or message of the poem the same while still offering a cleaner, better written product.


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

@Phil, I do prefer to go with my first run-through of poetry. Each person has their own preference and it may vary according to the poem itself. Thanks for lending your own opinion to the hub!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

I do not generally write poetry, but in the past when I have, I definitely had moments where it was just coming out of me at high speed. That, I would not have revised in any way.

If I was to write a poem with a specific intent, I would be plugging away at it line by line and would be in constant revision as I am writing it.


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

@OldCashmere, I really appreciate your comment. It is nice to get compliments for my writing. I hope you continue to share poetry here for us to read. Take care.


Olde Cashmere profile image

Olde Cashmere 4 years ago from Michigan, United States

When I began writing poetry recently, it was a pain as I would revise over and over again. Then the more poems I wrote, the more natural and fluid it became. Still need to revise here and there for lines that don't sound right. Excellent hub Christy, I enjoyed your writing. Voted up, shared, useful, awesome, and interesting :)


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

@Kris, It is nice to hear the perspectives of other poets. I like that my hub has initiated great discussion! Free verse and rhyming poems can carry different flow to the lines and it can be fun to play with structure. As long as over-thinking does not become part of the process!


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

@SidKemp,you are right. As I point out in my hub, there are certainly circumstances when revision is useful. I also point out the hazards of over-thinking. Your thoughts are very useful here, thanks!


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

@Marc, you do make me laugh! I believe that poem has already been written hehe. Thanks for stopping by :)

@Anju, I do hope the hub is useful for writers. Thank-you.


KrisL profile image

KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

Thanks for an interesting hub. It's cool to see how other writers work.

I often play with short poems such as haiku, both in my head and then on paper or computer, writing them several ways in a few minutes, and then picking the version I like best.

For longer poems, especially heart-felt pieces, I agree with SidKemp's advice about letting them sit for a week or two before revising.

And there's one kind of revising that you don't mention that I would recommend: changing around the line breaks.

I think that in a free-verse unrhymed poem the line breaks should sound natural, matching the syntax & meaning, with important words you want to emphasize at the end of lines.

In a rhymed poem, on the other hand, it is often good to have a sentence or phrase that flows from line to line (think Shakespeare's sonnets as opposed to nursery rhymes) so that the finished poem doesn't sound sing-songy.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

I would suggest that the process of writing poetry depends on the poet and the poem. Certainly, all the risks of revision you write about are true. At the same time, some poets find revision essential. Revision can help us find and remove cliches (worn-out phrases), correct errors, and deepen the wisdom and beauty of our poems.

I encourage these: Always let a poem rest overnight, or a week, between completion and revision. Keep a copy of the original, in case you change your mind. Revise your words with love and respect.

Voted up and useful.


Marc Babineau profile image

Marc Babineau 4 years ago from Cornwall, Ontario, The Seaway City

I'm still a lyric type of guy... if it doesn't rhyme with Nantucket, well, #$%@ it...


Anju Arya profile image

Anju Arya 4 years ago from India

Nice information to make a beautiful piece of poetry. Thanks.


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

@Rebecca, How nice that you are a poet as well. Thanks for letting me know your opinion on the subject!

@Kenneth, I understand what you mean about giving your work time to "breathe". Your poetry sounds interesting!

@Teaches, I also like to read poetry here at HubPages. There are many creative writers. If my hub does help a poet than it is all worth it, and then some!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I love to read all the poems posted. It takes some very creative thinking to come up with the verses on a topic. I have read some really great poems of beauty and intrique. I am sure that your hub will help poets make a decision on this question, finding a balance must be difficult.


Kenneth Sibbett 4 years ago

I may write a poem in ten minutes and not see it again for six months. I simple comma, or another word might make it better. I have no set formula except spelling really. I sometimes use the wrong grammar on purpose, as it was used at the source I am referring to.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I love writing poetry but I really have to be inspired to produce one, so I tend to agree with you....somewhere in the middle. I think "caught up in the moment works!

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