Revising Workshopped Poems/Manuscripts

I attended my first workshop for my MFA program’s low residency the first week of January 2009. I submitted very amateur pieces of work – poetry, memoir – because I do not have previous experience with writing. The workshop was very eye-opening and I was excited about all the suggestions I was given. But, when I got home and tried to revise, I felt like something was being taken away from what I was trying to say. I am no expert, that is for sure, but I felt like my revisions were no longer my own work but someone else’s ideas and thoughts using my words. I revised Leaves in the Fall which is now Fall in Madison County and I am not happy with the revision. I feel like I lost the creativity and originality. One of the other students, Tasha, told me that how the poem looks on paper is important to her. I didn’t really understand what she meant until I looked at my revision of  Leaves and realized that it looks bulked up, the words too compacted together, not enough space. Whoa! What a revelation!

So, I have decided to post both the pre-workshopped versions of my poems (if they have been workshopped) and then the revised version. I am going to go back soon and try to revise Leaves in the Fall using the original version and rewriting using the knowledge I have gained in the past two months about poetry and about spacing and about my likes and dislikes. I think I will leave the suggestions made in workshop aside and see if I can create something that I am happy about. It is not that the suggestions were not phenomenal – they taught me a lot about poetry I did not know – but I need the poetry to be mine and to not look like a stranger wrote it. I was told that you take what you need from workshop and ignore the rest. I didn’t really understand what that meant and so I went overboard trying to incorporate all of the suggestions made. Now I know to take what I need – form, structure, space – and lay the rest to rest.

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