11 sept. 2003

"Here, I've kept the 'best' words and re-ordered them. Have I improved the poem? Damaged it? Changed its meaning? No. The poem is unaffected by change of any kind and therefore impervious to evaluation of any kind. It is SuperPoem, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal poems. Such a poem defies revision because—revise towards what? or away from what?"

Here I think I've located the source of Houlihan's uneasiness. The poem cannot be revised according to the canons of the "creative writing" workshop. We cannot apply the usual criteria: "eliminate the cliché in line four." We cannot offer suggestions for improvement because the poem is not trying to be the standard workshop poem in the first place. It is arrogantly placing itself in another category.

***

Now in my own case, for example, "suggestions for improvement" would be largely irrelevant. It may be that the poem I've written is weak. In which case, the best thing to do might be to throw it away, not to revise it. And especially not to revise it to bring it into line with the standards of "creative writing."

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