Reason #452 for why grad school is so stunningly awesome: you not only get to read amazing works of fiction and poetry but you can hang out with the people responsible for these displays of linguistic fireworks. One of the most dynamic of personalities in my poetry class is Anna Maxymiw who is as passionate about enjambments as she is about the entire enterprise of infusing poetry with attitude. Here’s what she gave me in response to one of my editing questions:
I did a whole lecture for CRWR 202 on revision, so there are plenty ofquotes that are really wonderful about the revision process. Know that I look at revision as the actual writing process, because I believe that you write a first draft, and then spend the rest of the time “revising”. Blake Morrison has a great quote – “Editing might be a bloody trade. But knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too.” How great is that? It reminds me that – even when revision is “hell”, which it often is for me – I am practicing an art form. I’m wielding a tool that is making
delicate incisions, excising one particular tiny thing that might make a subtle difference but a difference nonetheless. But I don’t have to only be the surgeon. I can also be the butcher, cutting big portions of the writing if I feel that they aren’t working. As I write both fiction and poetry, I find that I very often use the surgeon approach to poetry – for me, revision in poetry is about manipulating specific words, specific line breaks. Maybe it’s because poetry is often a shorter form than is fiction, and so subtler edits are needed. Whatever the case, being the surgeon (and the butcher) can be stressful, but if I look at it as though I am holding an important and useful tool in my hands, it sometimes helps the “hell” process.