Revisionist. It’s an ugly word in history and politics, but in the world of poetry? Nirvana! Frankly, I much prefer revising my poems to creating them. Birth from the white womb of blankness, page or screen, can be painful. Tinkering with existing words, lines, even punctuation? Another matter entirely.
Of course, revising must be earned. You can’t revise nothing because, in the words of the prophet, Billy Preston, nothing from nothing leaves nothing. (This is math I can understand!)
If you missed it, I have to share with you a New York Times feature on poets’ revisionary tactics. It was, as the phrase has been sweetly coined, “eye candy” for poets. You look at typed poems and witness glorious cross-outs, arrows, and scribbles. In short, a creative history of brains at work.
In this case, the brains are Eduardo C. Corral, Billy Collins, Jenny Zhang, Marie Howe, Robert Pinsky, and Mary Jo Bang. Which reminds me. Why can’t I have a catchy name like Mary Jo Bang? Holy cow. Where do people get such catchy names? I’ve no idea if it is real or a nom de plume, but either way, I like the sound of it.
You can check out this New York Times feature, called “Poets in Action,” here. Not only do you get to see who’s messiest, you get to read a bit of commentary by each poet below the manuscript. Not that’s a Saturday treat.
Bon weekend, people!