Unless you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle with these words being read to you from some text to speech software, I’d like you to drop everything and either check out the interview below or better yet click straight to Christine Leclerc’s website which features a collaborative poem that’s being written in resistance to the proposed Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. With media coverage from across the country, Enpipe Line is just one of the many stellar poetic/political forms from the mind of Leclerc. She was gracious enough to take time out from her busy schedule to answer my questions about editing poetry.
How do you work your way through revisions? Do you have any tricks to removing commas, words or lines?
How do I revise? The first word that comes to mind is laboriously, probably because I do it over and over again, and revisions usually involve throwing out most of what I’ve already written. Funnily though, these revisions leave me feeling emboldened, like I could do anything! I find this kind of revising energizing. But last revisions give me mental arthritis. I just want to start something new and look at the movements of a piece from on top of the world again.
Robert Lowell wrote that “Revision is inspiration.” To what extent do you think that’s true? How would you rewrite Lowell: “Revision is __________”
Revision is inspiration. Hmm… No, I don’t like that because for me inspiration is being somewhere you’ve never been before. Or you may as well have never been there because it always seems completely new. But you know what, the dictionary definition of inspiration has more to do with being moved to action than novelty of experience. Still, I think that to act as a result of inspiration (if we’re going to believe in such a thing, *wink, wink*) is to be compelled by an overwhelming force. And if this force were not novel in some way, I’m not sure it could maintain its ability to overwhelm us with its call to action. But returning to Lowell, revising is acting, so in the end it may be that I agree, with a caveat about having to see the text with fresh eyes.
What are three pet peeves when it comes to editing your own work or someone else’s?
Pet peeves. As mentioned earlier, the later edits. I hugely resent them. Other editing pet peeve is having to sleep when I’m on a roll.
Are there any lines from an early draft of a poem that you’d like to share? What ideas, principles or gut feelings guided you through those changes?
And a stilt-walker with a gun-wound. The five o’clockness of it all.
These hit the cutting room floor the other day. The stilt-walker seemed too ridiculous for me to deal with. The five o’clockness felt too precious, but there’s part of me that likes them both and wishes my mind were such that I could make use of these fragments in a way I could be comfortable with. Might be a good self-challenge though.