FRIDAY FAVORITES: Week 3 (February 2nd, 2018)

Another Friday, another list of favorites! To give you little bit of background, Friday Favorites serves as post where I give you some of my favorite things throughout my week that may or may not have to do anything with books or writing, haha.

Here’s the criteria.

This list will consist of my weekly favorite:

  • Physical Thing
  • Non-Physical Thing (This can include but is not limited to anything from Movies, Videos or Online Articles)
  • Song

 

FAVORITE PHYSICAL THING

Starbucks’s Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher

IMG_1783

While Starbucks 85% of the time burns my espresso, they seem to always get this one right!..at least so far.

Coming in at only 60 calories for a grande, I love to sip on this while I study/do homework and/or write.

 

FAVORITE NON-PHYSICAL THING

botpoet.com

While I really haven’t gotten to play around with this site a lot, I thought it was quite interesting! It’s basically a game where you have to guess if the poem was written by a computer or an actual person. Haha, very fun, especially if you like poetry.

 

FAVORITE SONG

“If U Seek Amy” by Britney Spears

Listen to it here.

220px-If_U_Seek_Amy

A coworker mentioned this song, and I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it/remembered it. When I looked it up, as a pop music enthusiast, I was immediately impressed just by what it was getting away with. Considering this song was released in 2009, it’s really a marvel. Not only is it catchy, but it’s also extremely clever.

While you could find a million things to criticize about this song, it’s hard not to admit its catchiness and way to manipulate standards in the industry. A song definitely worth resurfacing.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I have something neat going up on here sometime in the near future, though I’m not entirely sure when. I’m excited for the month of February!

Anyway, these were just my favorites, and if you don’t like them, then keep in mind that these are just the honest opinions of an English Major.

Best,

Daniel xx

 

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WRITING POETRY: Tips for Revising and Editing Your Poems

For a long while, in my overall experience of writing poetry, I was under the strict opinion that what was first written in your poem was how it was meant to be – that editing a poem was stupid. Poems are raw emotions, right? They shouldn’t be toiled with.

Well, I’m happy to say that my first semester at University has strongly changed my opinion on that.

In this post, I’ll show you the before, middle, and after of the editing process of a poem I had workshopped in class, as well as explain some tips on how and when you should consider editing your poem.

The First Draft

I was fortunate enough to be in a Creative Writing workshop during my first semester at University, and our first task was poetry. We had to have three poems, one of which needed to be a narrative.

So, I went to it! I ended up using a poem I wrote in a single sitting for my narrative work, entitled “Monsters of the Night”. Here was my first draft:

Monsters of the Night

by Daniel Peralta

 

The bus stop loomed over

The boy like the monsters

Hiding under his bed.

 

His father sat beside him

And tapped his foot

On the concrete to the

 

Pounding rhythm of

The people around

Them on the street.

 

The backpack on the boy’s

Back weighed heavier then

The things on his mind.

 

Three bottles of water,

A Kit-Kat bar and

Three bars of soap.

 

You know where to go?

His father asked him just

As the squeaky brakes

 

Of the bus halted

The metal giant in front

Of them. He nodded.

 

The doors opened,

The boy stood and

His father hugged him.

 

I love you, Dad, the boy

Said just as he was pushed

Away and caught his first

 

Foot up the steps to the

Empty, three AM bus

Of Seattle nighttime.

 

By the time he sat down,

His father was gone

And so were the people.

 

To be honest with you, when I first wrote this, I didn’t see a problem with it. And looking at it now, it’s definitely not the worst draft someone could have on their hands, but as you start to delve into it, you start to notice issues.

Editing Tip #1: Edit Things Confusing to the Audience

Poetry is a beautiful art, and super fun to write. However, when poetry becomes confusing, that’s when you start losing your readers.

Let’s take, for instance, the final two lines of the poem:

His father was gone / And so were the people.

The first comment I had about this from the professor was “What people are you talking about?”

To me, the writer, I thought it was completely obvious that I was referring to this line:

The people around them / On the street.

But, it happened so long agoEIGHT stanzas to be exact – that the reader can easily forget and not make the connection that I wanted them to make.

You have to keep in mind when writing poetry that, yeah, sure, this is about yourself and getting feelings out, but what’s the point of trying to express your feelings to the audience if the audience you’re trying to tell it to can’t even understand what’s going on?

My fix for this, in the final edition, ended up being to remove “the people” all together, because my focus wasn’t on them. It was about the relationship I was trying to build between the son and father.

Editing Tip #2: Don’t Be Vague

Okay, sure, including little things inside your poems that only you get is great, but including those things in your poem and not clarifying them for your audience can lead to disaster.

An example from the top are the lines:

The backpack on the boy’s / Back weighed heavier then / The things on his mind.

Not to mention the obvious typo (more on that later), while in the next stanza I explain what’s in the boy’s backpack, I never explain to the reader what’s on his mind. Yeah, it may be obvious with the whole father thing, but how does the reader know that? As a reader, can you read my mind? I didn’t think so. He could have been thinking about tacos or the next Lorde album. NO ONE KNOWS.

DO NOT BE VAGUE WHEN YOU CAN AVOID IT. A simple explanation would have cleared this right up. And that’s how you can fix it, most of the time. Most poetry is trying to express or show something in a different format with fewer words, which makes it different from most fiction. Don’t confuse your reader and waste your precious word count by including things that either a) don’t belong or b) make no sense with the rest of the poem.

In this case, and in other cases, the best revision option was to make the poem slightly longer by offering an explanation of what was on his mind. As the author, you have to know what the poem needs and how to fix that (by deleting or adding) to make sure your reader isn’t lost along the way.

Revision #1

While some poems can be fixed in one go, this one took twice at revising in order for it to get where I wanted it to. This was my second shot at it:

Monsters of the Night

by Daniel Peralta

 

The bus stop loomed over

The boy like the monsters

Hiding under his bed.

 

His father sat beside him

And tapped his foot

On the concrete to the

 

Pounding rhythm of

The people around

Them on the street.

 

The backpack on the boy’s

Shoulders weighed heavier than

The things on his mind –

 

A combination of middle

School crushes and the zit

That hurt on his forehead

 

Compered to

 

Three bottles of water,

A box of Cheeze-Its and

Three bars of soap.

 

You know where to go?

His father asked him just

As the squeaky brakes

 

Of the bus halted

The metal giant in front

Of them. He nodded.

 

The doors opened,

The boy stood and

His father hugged him.

 

I love you, Dad, the boy

Said just as he was pushed

Away by the hands that once

 

Had a part in his making,

His being – the person he used

To want to be in ten years.

 

Foot up the steps to the

Empty, three AM bus

Of Seattle nighttime

 

And Greyhound smells

All the way to who-knows-

Where? The ticket

 

Said Los Angeles, but the

Boy said Take me home, and

So it was done and he was

 

On the bus – empty seat to

Empty seat as he walked to the

Back near the bathroom.

 

By the time he sat down,

His father was gone

 

And

 

so

 

were

 

the

 

monsters.

 

 

I know, I know: What Happened?

Improvements:

  • I clarified what was on the boy’s mind (Stanza 5)
  • I took out “the people” line at the very end
  • I expressed more thoughts and emotion about the boy’s thoughts on what was going on

Issues:

  • What are the people still doing in there? (Stanza 3)
  • The poem seems really too long for the eye and how I want it
  • Choppy and abrupt

Editing Tip #3: More Stanzas Does Not Mean a Better Poem

Sometimes shorter stanzas and lots of them is the way to go. In this case, however, I just felt it wasn’t working. This was supposed to be a narrative poem, right? And I just felt with the short, choppy stanzas, the point wasn’t getting across.

This is where knowing the message you want to convey comes in handy. Stanzas and line breaks, even if it’s a small one, give your reader slight pause while their eyes shift down to the next line or stanza. And since I was going for more of a “story” aspect here, the short stanzas weren’t working for me, as I wanted more flow to the overall story.

Don’t think that because you have more stanzas that the poem will be better. Sometimes less is more.

Editing Tip #4: Typos Aren’t Cool…Most of the Time

When your poems call for a certain style (i.e. all lowercase, etc) it’s fine to stretch the limits, but careless mistakes such as the wrong “your or you’re” or “there or their” or “then or than”  just makes you look uneducated and can make the reader stop reading faster than any of the other issues I’ve listed above.

Final Draft

That all being said. This was what I finally ended up with:

Monsters of the Night

by Daniel Peralta

 

The bus stop loomed over the boy like the monsters

Hiding under his bed. His father sat beside him

And tapped his foot on the concrete.

 

The backpack on the boy’s shoulders weighed heavier than

The things on his mind –

A combination of middle school crushes and the zit

That hurt on his forehead

 

Compered to

 

Three bottles of water,

A box of Cheeze-Its and

Three bars of soap.

 

You know where to go? His father asked him just

As the squeaky brakes of the bus halted

The metal giant in front of them.

He nodded.

 

The doors opened, the boy stood and

His father hugged him. I love you, Dad,

the boy said just as he was pushed

Away by the hands that once

 

Had a part in his making,

His being – the person he used

To want to be in ten years.

 

Foot up the steps to the empty, three AM bus

Of Seattle nighttime and Greyhound gone

All the way to who-knows-where?

 

The ticket said Los Angeles, but the

Boy said Take me home, and

So it was done and he was

 

On the bus – empty seat to

Empty seat as he walked to the

Back near the bathroom.

 

By the time he sat down,

His father was gone

 

And

 

so

 

were

 

the

 

monsters.

 

What Changed

In the end, I am quite proud of my revisions.

  • I was able to finally remove these “people” that had nothing to do with anything, so the reader was able to focus more on the father and son.
  • I was able to condense the stanzas, making for a better flow, making the reader more apt to read it how I wanted them to read it.
  • I think you can really feel the layers of pain the boy is feeling – surface level and psychologically – better then in the first draft
    • Doing this solidified both the boy and the dad. We now know how the boy feels do to his father.

Bonus Editing Tip: Adding an Author’s Note

Sometimes it’s okay to add a brief note explaining something in your poem that is vague that you felt could not be changed – whether for artistic reasons or not.

For example, I wrote a poem entitled “Sunrise Dance”. Not everyone knows what a “Sunrise Dance” is, and without the audience knowing that vital information, the entire meaning would have fallen through the cracks.

So, sometimes it’s okay to be like:

Note: A Sunrise Dance is a practice carried out, traditionally, by the Apache Indians when a girl is transitioning into becoming a woman.

Short and to the point. Now your audience knows what’s up.

FINAL NOTES

Poetry has a bad history with people who don’t read that often and who read every day in that it is “too confusing”. When writing poetry – or anything, really –  you not only need to think of yourself, but of your audience and having what you want to get across to them actually get across.

The last thing you want to do to your audience is confuse them. Confusing your audience if one of the fastest ways to make them say “Oh, no. Them.” whenever they see another one of your poems.

But, in the end, this is your poem. Make it what you want. Writing is all about the author until your done and it gets into the hands of it’s first reader – then it’s all theirs to make of what they want to. But, what does it really matter what I think? This is just the honest opinion of an English Major.

Best,

Daniel xx

Note: You are welcome to quote this post or the poem as long as recognition is given to the author. Thank you for reading!