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Revision


tonyv
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Do you revise your poems? If so, to what extent do you revise? I mean, are your poems perpetual works in progress? Or, is it for you, as it is for me -- once they're done, they're done? (Well, at least that's the way it is for me now, probably because I haven't been writing for very long! icon_rolleyes.gif ) Generally, I don't share poems until I think they're done. After "publishing" them (here! icon_smile.gif ), I usually just make minor edits in grammar and punctuation. Perhaps, in time, I'll look at my poems and determine that they should be revised substantially ... or scrapped altogether.

 

It's well known that W.B. Yeats revised extensively. I recently obtained a fantastic, old textbook. (An Introduction to Literature -- Fiction, Poetry, Drama by Sylvan Barnet, Morton Berman, and William Burto; Little, Brown and Company; Boston; 1961.) The book has a terrific section on poetry, and, on page 336 and 337, there are three versions of Yeats' Leda and the Swan. I'll share them in this topic.

 

Leda and the Swan (an early version, from a manuscript dated 18 September, 1923)

 

Now can the swooping godhead have have his will

Yet hovers, though her helpless thighs are pressed

By the webbed toes; and that all powerful bill

Has suddenly bowed her face upon his breast.

 

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

All the stretched body's laid in that white rush

And feels the strange heart beating where it lies.

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and Tower

And Agamemnon dead ....

---------------------------------Being so caught up

Did nothing pass before her in the air?

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

 

 

Leda and the Swan (a later version, printed in a magazine, August 1924)

 

A rush, a sudden wheel, and hovering still

The bird descends, and her frail thighs are pressed

By the webbed toes, and that all-powerful bill

Has laid her helpless face upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs!

All the stretched body's laid on the white rush

And feels the strange heart beating where it lies;

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.

-----------------------------------Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

 

 

Leda and the Swan (the final version, published in 1928)

 

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed

By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,

He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

 

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

And how can body, laid in that white rush,

But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

 

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.

----------------------------------Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

 

 

In addition to the substantial changes in the three versions, I noticed several minor differences. In the manuscript version, Yeats uses a question mark after thighs, as expected. In the magazine version, the question mark has been changed to an exclamation point -- I wonder if that was a change made by an editor? -- which works also. In the final version, the exclamation point has been changed back to the question mark. Another minor point: tower is capitalized in the early version and not so in the later versions. I'm also surprised that Yeats used the word rush twice in the second version, with rush being such an unusual word.

 

It's interesting to note how many years apart the three versions are spaced. There's one year between the manuscript and magazine version, then four more years(!) between that and the final version. How did Yeats decide that he was finally done? (He lived at least ten more years.) Did he intend to revise the poem again? Is endless revision the curse of the poet? I mean, when a painter finishes a painting, he doesn't "revise" it! By the very nature of writing (as opposed to other art like painting and sculpture), it can be worked and re-worked, and perhaps this is the trade-off -- the pleasure and the pain of playing with language, the possibility of endless "tinker-ing," icon_smile.gif so to speak -- which differentiates our craft from the rest.

 

Are we writers ever really done with our works of art, so long as we are alive? I also wonder how much time poets like Yeats allotted for revision, proportionally, as opposed to working on new poems. Did they revise during "dry" spells? Perhaps that's a workable formula. How is it for you?

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Aleksandra

Tony, this is wonderful debatable topic. Thank you for your idea for the same.

I think that every serious writer / poet should work on revision. That is the best test for proving the power of the written poem etc.

You are saying that once your poem is done, is done. But why is not done the first moment. It's logically that you are working on a revision, just the difference is that you are not publishing easy your work, you do that after many revisions... It is logical, right? icon_smile.gif

 

And definitely I like your way of writing poems. For me that way, that serious attention while choosing the words for making a poem, is awesome and I am admiting - too hard for me, because I write what I think and done for me, and too hard to make a revision in English language, but I am learning - thanks to you my dear Tony.

 

I haven't met one poet who never went back at least once on some poem.

My experience here tells me that always there is revision, especially where is publishing some book - here. Usually the poets gives the book on revision to some professionals or poets, or to somebody else, who can edit and revise the poem as well, if there is permission from the author.

And also it happens to individual writers, doesn't matter the poem is published - posted - or stays in notebook. Revision should be a practice and proving.

 

I think that the same is happening with the painters also. I know that they are re - working sometimes when it needs to be reworked on their paintings long time till the moment the painting are not sold, or while the technics allows.

 

This is my fast observation for this subject.

 

I will write some more if I get from my mind icon_smile.gif

 

Much enjoyed icon_wink.gif

 

Aleksandra

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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Viking Poet (U.K.)

Hello tonyv,

good question, one I have asked in the past myself of others.

I revise all the time.

If ever I flick back to earlier works I cannot help but start a new. Forgetting what has been written as I do then finding an interesting piece is like letting a kid loose in a sweet store.

I make a copy and set about taking it apart and revising it. I'm never feel totally satisfied with any work, no matter how many times I look at it. Sometimes when I read other poets work I will take a print and spend time trying to improve my skills by presenting it another way. I will add that there was possibly nothing wrong with what was written, it's just not written in a way I would want to see it!

So, yes I do and I enjoy revising past works.

Thanks for raising this topic Tony.

 

Best regards

 

Viking Poet (U.K.)

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Larsen M. Callirhoe

i revise very few poems once i am done publishing them on a forum unless i ask for a critique. a few poems i write not adding everything i want then i revise the poem. once i am done with a poem i am done with t unless there is a minor grammar issue such as a bad spelling of a word, a comma is needed or not needed, a capitalization of a word or vice versa, or punctutation is not correct. usually once i am done writing a poem i am done with it. however before i write a poem i have the concept in my head for a week or two thinking of how i should present a written work. that is why i am usually happy with what i hjave written. i do make allot of typos but that is because i am paralyzed and this fustrates me so. sometimes i have to redit a post up to 10 times because of typos because of my paralysis and making stupid typos. i make these typos because my mind gets tired in the proofread because of the brain damage i suffered when i was hurt in a car wreck. you should of seen my writings before i got hurt,. i was not the greatest speller so i avoided larger words. but yet i9 made no typos and talked up a storm of philosophy. get back to this later.

 

vic

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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There are differen ways of editing. Local university provides free workshops by such as Bly, Collins Kooser and many less known but well published poets and teaching faculties from schools all over the US. Not all will address revision but the consensus is that unless you are truly at ease you have written what you think you should you should revise. Correcting grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling is needed before daring to put your writing in print on paper, but not in electronic means for such 'publishing' does not preclude (with exceptions) some house to publish it formally.

 

I feel strongly that one's plausibility and public persona is harmed by leaving such mechanical errors, for that shows your literary acumen is not much or you have a disdain for the public where those that will look for poetry certainly are likely to know better.

 

There are other more erudite levels of revision, such as reshaping untrue by any means statements. You should certainly be forgiven beginning a poem driven by some overwhelming need or experience, but why let anyone else wonder what is it with this poet. Even the most imaginative approach they say should be somehow anchored in some concrete aspect of the world. There is too much of the pretense that "If I feel that way, all should like it." That may be why fewer and fewr people read poetry. No, poetry is not dead, never will be, but there are many that work hard to dilute it.

 

Can we deny that without an audience a poet would have to think himself a latter day Demosthenes to continue.

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i revise very few poems once i am done publishing them on a forum unless i ask for a critique. a few poems i write not adding everything i want then i revise the poem. once i am done with a poem i am done with t unless there is a minor grammar issue such as a bad spelling of a word, a comma is needed or not needed, a capitalization of a word or vice versa, or punctutation is not correct. usually once i am done writing a poem i am done with it. however before i write a poem i have the concept in my head for a week or two thinking of how i should present a written work. that is why i am usually happy with what i hjave written. i do make allot of typos but that is because i am paralyzed and this fustrates me so. sometimes i have to redit a post up to 10 times because of typos because of my paralysis and making stupid typos. i make these typos because my mind gets tired in the proofread because of the brain damage i suffered when i was hurt in a car wreck. you should of seen my writings before i got hurt,. i was not the greatest speller so i avoided larger words. but yet i9 made no typos and talked up a storm of philosophy. get back to this later.

 

vic

Your attitude is admirable and you should be proud you manage to do what you do, all things given. I am loath to revise, for, like you, I do not take creating a poem lightly. The inspiration that feels good is flighty and I try to draft a generak feel and words I feel most crucial. But then I do quite a bit of experimenting and when that is done its done. Of course, some of my very early work does make my brain itsh upon a revisit but I seldom tinker with it unless there is som gaucherie to repair which I do not hesitate because it does not change other than improve the poem's appeal. However, some of my poems betray/fool me into thinking they are great as is. icon_bounce.gif

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Just to add my 2 cents.... My poems are never finished. I write a poem, post it and in the typing of it I rewrite it, then I push send and reread it and edit it again... It is hard for me to stop tinkering... icon_twisted.gif sorry I couldn't resist but it true, I will read something I wrote 6 years ago and have to "fix" something.

 

~~Tinker

 

And no it is not how I got my screenname, I hadn't even thought to write poetry when I set up the name. I was setting up my computer and was asked for a screenname and at that moment my cat Tinkerbell jumped onto the keyboard... that is how I got the name.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Tinker wrote:

 

My poems are never finished.

 

My Poetry is never finished

 

and of course, Im sure this is the same for all of you- but for me, this is how it works: its like surfing the net- in fact, its JUST like surfing the net... screen after screen- experiencing life like this- and so, every once in a while, something that strikes my eyes will cause me to take a screen-capture and save it... thats when a poem comes along- its a poem-capture-

 

and so, no more than I would take a screen-capture over to Photoshop, and start tweaking it (or "tinkering" with it icon_wink.gif) - neither do I tweak much with the poems...

 

they are just snapshots of what comes along in this brain-life ... for me, the attempt to make them "better" would tangle with that part of me that gets these shots in the first place- I would just rather move along and look for the next one, and the next one, and the next one- and so, this is my "Poetry Life" ... the poem is a small part of that- but is a pure expression of that too, and so is perfect in its expression, even if it is imperfect... I find I dont tinker...

 

now, having said all that-- I DO actually tinker with visual stuff in Photoshop... I WILL take a photo image and spend much time tweaking tweaking tweaking to make it "perfect"...

 

whats the difference then between a poem and a photo?

beats me!

 

I can see someday maybe, giving a poem the same sort of treatment- absolutely - its not as if I feel one way is better than another- this is just how its been for me- Life is an experiment, and this is where in my lab youll find me- this is what Im working on in this moment, to discover something cool about life- but there is NO intent here to find some set destination... its all pure experiment...

 

sometimes I do photoshop "paintings" from no photo at all... just a blank screen and start to make lines... here is one of my favorites [link] - and here some other stuff [link](the fire scenes are just "record shots" from across the street, one day a few years ago)

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Ah rumi, we are on the same page but we use different language. When I write the word poem, I am referring to the written words on the page. Anybody can write a poem. When I write the word poetry I am referring to the magic that happens when an experience is communicated through the words on the page. I'll consider myself lucky if one or two of my poems actually warrant the term poetry. I never use the word referring to my own work, that is for others to decide. I rarely use the word when referring to the work of others unless the work has truly touched me.

 

I tinker all of the time with the words of my poems but I try never to tinker with its heart. It is the heart that when communicated well could be considered poetry and that I would never tinker with. The trick is to keep the heart alive while tinkering with the words.

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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very nicely said Tinker...

 

When I write the word poetry I am referring to the magic that happens when an experience is communicated through the words on the page.

 

yes yes indeed...

 

the thing is...

 

the thing is... this "magic" has been happening...

 

well, just in life- this magic is ALL over life- my life is unfolding in amazing ways... If I die tomorrow and all that... just amazing ways...

 

and Im completely bankrupt and near homeless to BOOT!

 

so, EVERYTHING has been coming up "poetry" to me- even my own most horrible flubs - and even "yours"...

 

amazing amazing stuff, this life

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very nicely said Tinker...

 

When I write the word poetry I am referring to the magic that happens when an experience is communicated through the words on the page.

 

yes yes indeed...

 

the thing is...

 

the thing is... this "magic" has been happening...

 

well, just in life- this magic is ALL over life- my life is unfolding in amazing ways... If I die tomorrow and all that... just amazing ways...

 

and Im completely bankrupt and near homeless to BOOT!

 

so, EVERYTHING has been coming up "poetry" to me- even my own most horrible flubs - and even "yours"...

 

amazing amazing stuff, this life

 

Good of you to chime in, rumi. I'd expand on Tinker's most excellent thought "magic that happens when an experience is communicated" by adding to the word "communicate" with "share". The words we use must enable others to see/feel what we see/feel or no poetry.

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Aleksandra

rumisong wrote:

 

sometimes I do photoshop "paintings" from no photo at all... just a blank screen and start to make lines...
- and here
(the fire scenes are just "record shots" from across the street, one day a few years ago)

 

Ah Rumi, what a wonderful work of you. Thanks for introducing some other part of you icon_smile.gif. I loved the paintings.

 

Thanks for sharing that too. You may add something of you in art forum too.

 

Aleksandra

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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