Great poetry is a work of art. It sounds pretty, and it looks pretty. A well-crafted poem stirs the soul and ignites the mind. The author of a poem has a unique literary skillset, some employing very interesting mechanics and others relying on established poetic forms. But even the most gifted poet might benefit from some guidance when it comes to knowing how to edit poetry.
Poem revision is an art, too. It requires a certain detachment from the emotional tug of the poem so an author can objectively spot any problem areas. These might be rhythm missteps, structural problems, balance issues, or a lack of clarity in the poem’s messaging. Even the visual appeal of the poem can require some adjustments. To learn more about the art of editing your poetry, read on!
The Poet’s Guide to Poem Revision
As anxious as you might be to publish your poetry collection, it is always wise to give it a thorough edit first. Refining your poems will take some time, as well as an abundance of patience, but is a necessary step in the publishing process.
Think of the editing process as if you are excavating a diamond in the rough. Editing allows you to enhance the brilliance of your poems by removing any “debris” that might be bogging them down and obscuring their beauty. To help your poems shine, follow these editing steps:
- Read the poem again… at least twice. As authors, our eyes tend to hop right over sometimes glaring errors. Re-read each poem at least twice, slowly and methodically.
- Cut extraneous words. Attempt to make your poem as concise and lean as possible. Look for words that muddy the essence of the poem, such as too many adjectives and prepositions.
- Read the poem out loud. A poem should flow like music when you read it. One way to test this objective is to recite your poem out loud. Listen for cadence and rhythm, as well as end rhymes (if those are desired).
- Replace vague words. Words that are too general, like hate or love, do not add any value to your poem. Replace these types of vague catch-all words with more concrete and descriptive words.
- Heed your line breaks. Pay special attention to the end of each line, and note how it flows into the beginning of the next. Test end-stops versus enjambment to see which form is the best fit for your poem.
- Use a thesaurus. Experiment with word choices. If you notice you have used the same word a few times, consult a thesaurus to discover some replacement words that help reduce redundancy and add flavor.
- Check your punctuation. Poets rely on strategic punctuation to help their poems achieve the proper tone and cadence. Make good use of punctuation marks, but note that the end of a line is not necessarily the end of a sentence.
- Open and close with strength. The opening line and the final line are critical to the poem’s power. Capture the reader with a strong opener, and wrap up the journey with a compelling conclusion.
These tips are a great way to start the poem editing process, however, there is still more to do before finalizing your work. We will dive deeper into editing your poems’ stanzas below.
3 Poem Editing Tips for Stunning Stanzas
Stanzas are to a poem what paragraphs are to a chapter. These groupings of poetic lines, usually separated by a double line break, represent segments of a story or emotional journey through which the speaker is leading the reader. Each stanza is itself a lyrical work of art.
Learning how to edit poetry must include devoting special attention to stanzas.
To supercharge your stanzas, try these tips:
- Read the poem aloud to a friend. Another set of ears can be quite helpful in the fine-tuning process. Read the poem out loud to witness firsthand if it has the impact you are hoping for, or if it could use further refinement.
- Note the white space. A poem’s visual appeal is also important to consider. How the poetic lines look on paper matters, so ensure that the lines look balanced and light, with plenty of white space around them.
- The length of the lines. Check the poem’s sense of balance and rhythm as it is read. Do the lines need to be shortened? Lengthened? Deleted entirely? Edit for the perfect line length to offer the best reader experience.
Once you refine and edit your poems, you may still feel the need for a professional poem editor to review your work. In the next section, we will explain how to find a knowledgeable poem editor.
How To Find a Poem Editor
Knowledge of how to edit poetry is not a universal skill that authors usually possess. While it is possible to revise one’s own poems, it isn’t always the best route to take. A poetry editor can help you improve your artistic voice as you move forward toward self-publishing your collection.
When seeking a poem editor you will want to search for someone with plenty of poem editing experience. These professionals will not change your literary style or vision; they will only enhance and refine them.
To locate a qualified poem editor, you can access online directories where editors have a profile and website. Also, if you have any colleagues who write poetry, ask if they can refer you to a poetry editor. Another resource might be a poet friend you have who does some editing work on the side. Once you narrow down some candidates, ask to view their portfolios or for them to provide links to poetry books they have edited.
Polish Your Poetry to Perfection
Finding a poem editor that is reliable and well qualified might prove more challenging than you anticipated. For quality poetry editing, why not reach out to the editing team at Gatekeeper Press? Gatekeeper Press offers a full range of editing and publishing services and can help you publish a perfect poetry book. Reach out to us today!