Saturday, October 15, 2016

Prompt #264 – Making More of Revision by Guest Prompter Diane Lockward

I’m sure many of you have copies of Diane Lockward's The Crafty Poet (published in 2013, and reissued in 2016 in a revised edition) in your poetry libraries. Well, there’s great news! Diane and Terrapin Books recently came out with The Crafty Poet II—a companion to Crafty I and another substantial volume packed with craft tips, poems, and much more. This companion to Volume I is similarly designed with the same cover and the contents divided into sections. Each of the ten sections in Crafty II “include three craft tips, each provided by an experienced, accomplished poet. Each of these thirty craft tips is followed by a model poem and a prompt based on the poem. Each model poem is used as a mentor, again expressing the underlying philosophy of the first book that the best teacher of poetry is a good poem. You will find that the model poems receive more analysis than in the first book and that the prompts are a bit more challenging. Each prompt is followed by two Sample poems, which suggest the possibilities for the prompts and should provide for good discussion about what works and what doesn't. Each section includes a Poet on the Poem Q&A about the craft elements in one of the featured poet's poems. Each section concludes with a Bonus Prompt, each of which provides a stimulus on those days when you just can't get your engine started.” 
In order to give you a small sampling of the new book, Diane Lockward is our guest blogger this week with a prompt that addresses the process of revision (and we all know how challenging effective revision can be). The suggestions posted here are only some of those in the book.
From The Crafty Poet II , Craft Tip #29 – Making More of Revision by Diane Lockward    
During revision discussions, we poets hear a lot about compression, reducing clutter, and cutting out the non-essential. Who hasn’t sat in a poetry class or workshop and been told that less is more? So when someone tells us to add more, to expand, to keep going, we might be hesitant to pay attention.
But we should pay attention. The less-is-more principle is often good advice, but it’s not always good advice. As I once heard Mark Doty say, Sometimes more is more.
Too often we start revising and hacking away at the poem before it’s even fully written. We quit before we’ve given the poem life, before we’ve discovered its full potential, before we’ve found its real material.

Stephen Dunn addresses the topic of revision in a 2007 interview in The Pedestal Magazine:  
A fairly new experience that I’ve been having is revision as expansion. Most of us know about revision as an act of paring down. Several years ago, in looking at my work, I saw that I was kind of a page or page and a half kind of poet, which meant that I was thinking of closure around the same time in every poem. I started to confound that habit. By mid-poem, I might add a detail that the poem couldn’t yet accommodate. That’s especially proven to be an interesting and useful way of revising poems that seem too slight or thin; to add something put an obstacle in. The artificial as another way to arrive at the genuine—an old story, really.
Before you begin to strip down your poem or abandon it as no good or decide it’s good enough as it is, first consider how you might expand your poem. The following expansion strategies just might help you to discover your poem’s true potential and arrive at the genuine.
      1.    Choose a single poem by someone else, one that has strong diction. Take ten words from that poem and, in no particular order, plug them into your own draft. Make them make sense within the context of your poem, adjusting your context as needed. Or let the words introduce an element of the strange, a touch of the surreal.
     2.    Find the lifeless part of your poem. This is often the part where your mind begins to wander when you read the poem aloud. Open up space there and keep on writing in that space. Repeat elsewhere if needed. Remember that freewriting can occur not only while drafting but also while revising.
     3.    Find three places in the poem where you could insert a negative statement. Then go into the right margin of your draft and write those statements. Add them to the poem. By being contrary, you might add depth and richness to the poem.
     4.    Put something into your poem that seemingly doesn’t belong, perhaps some kind of food, a tree, a piece of furniture, a policeman, or a dog. Elaborate.
     5.    Midway or two-thirds into your poem, insert a story, perhaps something from the newspaper, a book you’ve read, a fable, or a fairy tale. Don’t use the entire story, just enough of it to add some texture and weight to your poem. Your challenge is to find the connection between this new material and what was already in the poem. 
Now go into your folder of old, abandoned poems, the ones you gave up on when you decided they just weren’t going anywhere. Then get out some of your recent poems that feel merely good enough, the ones that never gave you that jolt of excitement we get when a poem is percolating. Finally, return to some of the poems that you’ve submitted and submitted with no success, those poor rejects. 
Mark all of these poems as once again in progress. Now apply some of the expansion strategies and see if you can breathe new life into the poems. Remember that this kind of revision is not a matter of merely making the poem longer; it’s a matter of making the poem better.
Many thanks to Diane for this “taster” from The Crafty Poet II
Like Crafty I, this new volume is an invaluable resource for poets, teachers, and students—
definitely one that no poet should be without.
To Order Your Copy of THE CRAFTY POET II, Click Here  

If You Don't Have a Copy of Crafty I, Click Here to Order 


  1. I have the first volume and have found it to be very helpful when I have the proverbial 'writer's block'. Looks like I'll have to order Volume II!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Jamie. If you order a copy of Crafty II, you won't be disappointed!

  2. Always a pleasure to enjoy prompts by Diane Lockward. BTW, I have both editions of Crafty and all of Diane's books! Thanks Adele and Diane.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Sandy. I'm sure Diane will be happy to know you have her books and enjoy them!

  3. Costumes

    she stripped down to her underwear
    slowly stripped down to her bones
    not enough
    she reached deep into her being
    found the child
    and crossed over

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your poem, Risa! As always, your style speaks to compression and nuance. I like the way this poem begins with a strong visual image and then moves into the "mystical."