Part of the great Writers@Work experience I had was the manuscript conference I had with the editor/publisher, who loved my work but also had some editorial feedback, to wit:
1. each line should be like a little poem unto itself. I was enjambing too much which made all the lines feel not like little poems unto themselves.
2. take three words out of each line. (overstatement, translation: wordy, talky, also wordy.)
3. hold your hand over the page and find the language "hot spots." (metaphorical, translation: too talky, too much talking between the good parts.)
He took care to remind me that the above feedback was in the context of really liking my work, so I was not supposed to tumble into a pit of self-loathing, and I mostly haven't. Mostly. When I mentioned this feedback to several friends, they said, basically, (a) that's just regular good advice, but (b) don't do it just because he said so! (insert eye-rolling here). Anyway, I decided to go through the manuscript to see what I thought, and immediately, I could see poems that needed relineation and general pruning. Did I see this just because I'm a pro and it's just good practice? Was I doing it because he said so? Probably both, a little.
Yesterday, I spent several hours revising almost every poem. It was amazing to me to see how much sharper I could make poems I haven't touched for literally years. Example of an old sad version and a new sexy, streamlined version of the first part of one poem:
To get to the house, you must first find
the black highway, measured in leagues
and scores of leagues. This will take days.
The broken lines will keep you
till the road ends. There, you’ll find
a field with a path. It has been years
since the least pilgrim has found it,
so really, it will be the intimation
of a path, and you’ll have to imagine
the rest with your feet, or perhaps with
a rusty old scythe, which you might find
and the 2.0 version:
To get to the house, first find the black highway,
measured in leagues and scores of leagues.
This will take days. The broken lines will keep you
till the road ends. There, find a field
and the intimation of a path—
imagine the rest with your feet,
or perhaps with a rusty scythe
you might find lying there.
Still enjambing, but with more purpose, and so many extra, useless, meaningless words . . . poof!
Well, who can say? In any case, I enjoyed doing the revising, then had a fit of self-loathing as I readied copies of the ms to send out. But not because anyone told me to. The self-loathing I always manage to do on my own.