I am in love with revision work. That is the craft of writing to me. The first draft has everything to do with the poet's soul. The revision has to do with knowledge, intention, and ardent listening to the poem's request more than what the poet needs (or thinks is needed) from the poem. Each read, each word deleted or changed reveals more and more of the potential. It should not be hurried along. It should be understood. The poem actually knows what it wants. In our need to be done, to publish, to fulfill self-imposed quotas of work completed can sometimes overshadow the maturation process of a particular piece. Be prolific, yes, if it is the correct choice for the individual writer. Pushing a poem out the door before its own maturity is not necessarily wise.
As I became involved in Slamming, I had a profound opportunity to change, mostly driven by the need to fill 3 minutes. It takes a heck of a short poem to capture the judges. Once I found my way to what has become sort of a signature piece by being urged by my teammates to combine two related poems that ran a minute each, give or take a few seconds. The challenges of capturing all the shifts in performance were enough of an opportunity but then to determine how to use the page as an indicator was not actually solved until I was working with Kate Cahill, who designed my first book, Coaxing Nectar from Longing. Kate showed me ways of using the space on the page to visually chart the tonal changes. It was remarkable and the success on the page is due to her astute vision. I am ever grateful.
I am driven by deadlines and I can produce under pressure. We produced a lot of words. In fact, we turned in one hundred pages more than the production budget would sustain or indulge. Most of the ranks were axed. This collaborative process was expanded as we took the completed first draft to our publisher and entered the peer review process. I realized that I had moved from a solitary endeavor, to a partnership, then to a team effort, each member bringing a set of expectations, understandings, requirements, and aesthetic imprints. At times these elements were opposed to each other. There was negotiation over every word in that book, one of the many reasons I am tremendously proud of Our Difficult Sunlight.
I feel that I am maturing to meet my own expectation, if not exceed it. Transiting from teaching children and teens to working with adults is a considerable change in focus. I am loving digging in deeply to investigate pure craft-driven expressions. I will learn as much as my students but that is why I do what I do. I live my poet's life with a dread of complacency. I feel it is a sin for any artist to be complacent in their own work. But what is more important, I do live the adage "Teach what you want to learn."