S L E E P S A N D

Missives from a Wandering Mind

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RE: Revision

Like many others who graduated from creative writing or analogous programs, I was taught that revision is the foundation to good writing.  In addition to re-writing, redrafting and all around revision, I was taught not to throw anything I wrote away, as some distant day may finally be The Day where finishing my chapbook on paranoia, is exactly what I'll need to do.  

I think a lot of writers are natural hoarders anyway, so educating the urge is something of a step toward making paying customers feel some validation; that they were on the right track the whole time.  For me, I like to hold on to things so I can refer back to them as a way of tracking my writing.   

Earlier today I read an article in the Boston Globe, entitled,   Revising your writing again? Blame the Modernists  which made the point that though revision can  make a piece better, that doesn't necessarily mean that it will .  In my mind, the parallels between gambling and writing (once again) come to the fore: both endeavors take a certain amount of risk and often, those that are successful at it are those who have no thoughts on what might happen if they lose.  Additionally, those that are continually successful at either one develop a sense of when to stick with a run and when to walk away.  

I feel like this is something I have to be mindful of during the revision process and certainly as I ready things for submission.  So, today I took a look at the first poem I had published, something I have worked on a little bit since its publication and may continue to at some later date.  The following poem was published The Emerson Review  , Spring 2007, volume 36.  

 

Sudden Seizures and Acquisitions 

 

I was waiting in line at the bank 

wondering how the woman in front 

of me got so fat.  I recoiled slightly  

thinking about it, imagining she 

smelled.  You know, the way fatties 

do, like corn-chip burps with sugar 

sprinkled on them or sweaty desperation 

and suddenly I sniffed a sweet pinkness, 

like a lolly caressed by lips, licked 

adoringly down to the stick by an angel 

floating on a bunny shaped cloud 

of cotton candy. 

 

I turned my back on Li’l Debbie,

tongue lolling wolfishly at Ms. 

Shirley-Temple-with-her-maraschino-

cherry-popped, and stared.  I could 

almost see saccharine sequins, SnoCap 

buttons melting around her smiling 

Haribo peach, smacking wetly as it 

applied frosty-pink lip gloss.                    

 

I stepped out of line coaxing Robin 

back into his Hood, pretending

I had filled out my deposit slip 

incorrectly.  I watched Candy Pants 

sashay to the window and say, “Can 

I give you this roll of dimes 

to put in my account?” If she were 

my piggy, she could bank on me 

slipping a roll of dimes into her 

account at least twice daily, until 

senseless and spent. My deposits 

would be huge. 

 

Li’l Debbie looked at me tearfully.

“But Billy, don’t you like munching 

my oatmeal cream pie? “Don’t I 

always unwrap your dingdong and 

play with your ho ho’s?” I said, 

“Debbie, it’s not you, it’s me.”

She growled, saying she always thought 

I was into drakes and if I wanted 

to put my yodel into twinkies “not 

packaged for resale” then I could go 

fudge myself.  “Look Cupcake, I said 

I’m sorry, but me and this Tootsie 

are gonna roll.”  Her eyes were 

as cool as stepping into a blue 

Toyota where Miles Davis is playing 

Someday my Prince Will Come.  

“I’ll get you for this,” she said, 

“God in heaven, I’ll get you for this.”   

                 

 

What this reminds me of now, is that getting published is as much about what publishers think people want to read as it is about what a given writer's vision of what their work should be.  A frustrating thing, to be sure.  This poem, as it appeared in The Emerson Review  was not what I would consider to be complete and yet, it is the way it "officially" exists.  As I mentioned, there are several later drafts of this poem, which feel similarly incomplete, but as they say, "sometimes good enough is good enough."  

 . . . but ack!  Those line breaks :(