A Freshman’s Perspective On Revision by Amelia Reed

Before high school, the poetry I wrote mirrored a clothing splurge at your local thrift store; completed on a last-minute whim, and never looked at nor used again. If one were to pay close attention to my lack of prowess in the art of metaphors displayed above, they might perhaps understand why exactly my early poems fell short of the artistic mark. In all seriousness, my greatest poetry-writing flaw was apprehension at the prospect of revision. I would be afraid that, after revising, my initial intentions would be lost and the poem would lose meaning. However,  most of my amateur poems never saw the light of day but rather stayed balled up in the metaphorical dresser drawer, much like the aforementioned, also metaphorical, clothing. 

Once in the creative writing program, I was struck by the amount of revision the older students committed to; of course I had expected to have to begin drafting my pieces multiple times, but I hadn’t realized the full extent of it. After being in the program for a few weeks, I noticed that a poem, like an exotic plant, must be tended to, trimmed, and nurtured so that it can grow. Though there is no true “perfect” in terms of poetry, and a writer may never be able to be completely satisfied with their work, revision allows for a poem to bloom. 

I cannot truthfully claim to have a piece that is without blemishes or has no room for revision. I have submitted poetry to publications and almost immediately thought, “I should have added in just one more stanza to tie things up,” or “was that second line clear enough?”I have revised the same poem over and over again, finally submitted it and discovered I was still unhappy with its progress. I have completed and turned in an entire poem only to realize that I have repeated a certain phrase far too many times. But part of the writing process is regret and revision, and sometimes it is the idea behind a work which prevails even if the original draft failed to convey it. What I have discovered is that each mistake or disappointing poem I write is simply another rung on the ladder and that I must pass in order to move ahead. It is up to the writer what they create once they have reached the top of the ladder. 

Below is what I interpret to be a “middle rung” in this poem’s stretch. 

Woodswoman

oh woman in the east woods 

shameful yarn spools betray your step. these false entrails tangle my land and-

three cows I have found entangled in your red string

three cows with taut throats, white eyes. 

I’ve decided to take up step and find you.

with me I bring:

shears for your threads, bread broken without cheer, 

a blanket. for a handkerchief’s job, if I could only afford one.

oh eastern woman now down south

do you think evasion will protect you from my snipping?

six geese belonging to a man downtown, choked

one horse strung to the newest apple sapling half its weight, tangled like your strands are fishnet. 

darling blue-cheeked woman,

your casualties: a small farm and counting.

oh now westwardbound woman,

my shears are hungry. 

I have only these two tales of your misdeeds to follow:

your threads uprooted the next town over in place of potato crop,

and sick yellow embroidery found winding about sunken cobblestone, tripping at child ankles. 

I snip as I travel.

my clippers and I have grown light, adept

when your spools and keen fingers have been apprehended,

dear wandering woodswoman

perhaps I should take up needlework. 

 oh northern daughter of the wheel

today I lifted limp string from a parched clearing.

as far as I can glimmer are your hell-ropes and

they have lost all color from days in sun.

oh sewing goddess and travelling devil

you aren’t in sight but your spoils are. all of them

dirty birds pile in heaps across the glen, dew catches each feather and

they fuse into translucent spectacles, still bodies, still each bit dead 

with finality.

strings, too, slack, complete in their run

you’re still imperceptible but this knot here, that tangle could almost be…

a forearm, the trace of a profile

this spillage shudders like a loose ribcage in and out and I

for a moment

feel sorrow. 

-Amelia Reed, Class of 2023

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