Looking for a Few Good Revision Tips?

Today’s blog post is brought to you by our Assistant Editor, Joshua Colwell.

You’ve just written a poem. It might be the best poem you’ve ever written. It has imagery, voice, theme, all the right line breaks. You might think you don’t need to revise, but here are some tips on what to do before you send it out. 

  1. Let it rest. You may be tempted to send it off to your favorite literary magazine or journal right away. Don’t. Let the poem rest. Wait a day or two before going back to it. You may later find it needs trimming, or the meter in the third stanza doesn’t flow as well as you thought. Giving your poem, and yourself, some time to rest can be the difference between acceptance and rejection. 
  2. Read other poems. Get a feel for how some of your favorite poets construct their lines. What do they sound like? What do they feel like? Do they do something with line breaks you hadn’t thought to do? Taking in others’ work flexes the creative muscles in your brain, and they’ll be that much stronger and sharper when you go back to your own. 
  3. Be active. I’ve personally found that nothing stimulates my creative side quite like going out in the driveway and playing basketball. For many writers it might be going for a walk, gardening, golfing, playing with the kids, taking photos of nature. Being active is a great way to get the endorphins flowing, get the blood pumping, and maybe get a few new ideas.
  4. Be merciless. Does this poem say everything you wanted it to say? Does it say it in the best way possible? Maybe the poem is too bloated, or it isn’t saying quite enough. You don’t necessarily need to take a hack saw to it (though sometimes we’d like to), but some lines just don’t work, despite how much we try to convince ourselves they do. These parts need to be taken out because they simply don’t work or don’t have a purpose. You can drop these lines or phrases in a Word doc and use them for an entirely new piece. The important part is to be honest with yourself about whether something is necessary. If it isn’t, cut it.
  5. Remember why you’re doing it. Few things are as frustrating as tinkering with a poem for days (or weeks) only to have it still be wrong. Sometimes you want to throw your computer out the window and never write again. Don’t. Take a moment and remember why you started this piece, even why you started writing poetry in the first place. It’s a labor of love, and too often we focus on the labor, and not the love. Change that.

Hopefully you can take one, or all, of these tips and apply them to your own work. Maybe you’ll find things that work for you we didn’t mention. Feel free to share them in the comments section below! 


Blackbird: Poems by Laura Grace Weldon – A Review

Blackbird: Poems by Laura Grace Weldon (West Hartford, CT: Grayson Books, 2019) $15.95

The first time I read Laura Grace Weldon’s latest book of poems, Blackbird, I gulped it down all at once like a starved reader. I kept finding poems to fall in love with, lines that made me say, oh, wow, me too. I’ve felt exactly that, keep tissues around for that (Overflow). Oh, there is a name for that feeling (Call of the Void). Yes, yes, this is what mothers do (Overflow – again, Notice to Fibromuscular Dysplasia, Subdural Hematoma, How to Soothe, After Play). Oh, god, I love this world, too (Common Ground, November Morning at Dawn, Feral, Astral Chorus). I wish everyone loved this world and each other (Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc; Border Children in the News), wish privilege recognized its own pompous damage (Adjunct Accidentally Invited to the Club, Fine Furniture). We can do better starting now (the whole damn book). And I thought, yes, this is what poetry is supposed to do: make us feel like we’ve found nourishment we weren’t even aware we needed. Make us feel connected to this world that offers so much, if we would just pay attention. Make us feel grateful.

The second time I read Blackbird, I savored it. I sunk into the idea of connectedness that is presented in the very first poem, Earthbound:

The oneness between self and everything

is this planet’s secret, kept imperfectly.

This is the very glue of this book. Oneness with everything – our families, our neighbors, the prisoners and children and battered women, the cow who lays down to die after 17 years of offerings, the coyotes and birds and beech trees, the oracles that come to us through everyday objects, the bee that leaves her stinger in the bottom of our foot. These poems draw an ever-expanding circle of life that includes even the smallest organisms. There is no part of this life on earth that does not offer something for us, some insight or comfort or magic. How can we not be grateful? 

And how can we not feel compassion for this earth and its beings, especially the damaged, the scarred, the ones in search of sanctuary? How can we not rethink our time here when its meaning shifts after a new medical diagnosis or a death? To understand how much there is to be grateful for is to also understand grief, loss, cruelty, fate, and to wield the bravery that allows passage through those difficulties. We have power to claim, as Clarion Reminder tells us:

The powerful provoke the powerless

to push against one another.

Their power grows by keeping us

in all kinds of prisons.

Yet we are not powerless.

When we rise up and gather our strength, as in Notice to Fibromuscular Dysplasia, we draw on power well beyond our own, especially when we are protecting our children:

I am a tornado, earthquake, tsunami,

I will knock your house into splinters.

I will drown you in my tides.

I will drop you into a fissure so deep

you won’t hear yourself cry for mercy.

I am the will of every mother

in every eon’s arduous crawl from sea to land.

Fierce love is an unbreakable bond. It is also the tissue connecting tender moments that lay bare our humanity. We treasure our memories, even as we leave them behind as in Moving Day:

The new people don’t know 

we tucked blessings behind these walls.

On bare beams the kids crayoned

bubble-face stick figures

and I wrote poems

in thick black marker, dizzied

by vapors that make words permanent.

Power, love, grief, gratitude. We use all of it to become complete human beings, like compost, as in Compost Happens:

Nature teaches nothing is lost.

It’s transmuted.

All that hard-won wisdom and gratitude and love brings us to the final poem in the collection, Anything, Everything. The poem closes the circle opened in the first poem. It reminds us of our “planet’s highest possibilities” and encourages us to start there. I would also suggest, as in the poem Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc, that we summon our will, like witches, to bring about a better reality. We have nothing and everything to lose.

To purchase a copy of Blackbird, visit https://www.graysonbooks.com/blackbird.html. A portion of the royalties will be donated to the Medina Raptor Center of Spencer, Ohio, where injured birds are rescued, rehabilitated, and released.

Laura Grace Weldon’s work has appeared in Gyroscope Review issues 17-1 and 19-1.


Poets Read: Oonah V Joslin

We are pleased to offer our Poets Read series in honor of National Poetry Month 2019 and will run it throughout the month of April. 

Every day in April, our website and our YouTube channel will feature the voice of a poet whose work has appeared in our pages over the past year. On Sundays, we will offer two poets for your enjoyment. 

Today’s poem is Brooch Belonging To by Oonah V Joslin and it appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Gyroscope Review.

Brooch Belonging To
by Oonah V Joslin

I seldom 
wear you out. I’m afraid
of losing you. 
So afraid of losing.

No pin is so secure I can be 
absolutely sure. 

It’s happened before. 
Something precious
forever lost.

It’s not the cost 
that makes a coward of me.
It’s the thought
that all through ages yet to come
a day, a week, a century from now
you will belong to someone else and

I can never 
wear you

In the end it’s you who will lose me. 
You who can feel no fond memory 
or retain even the engraving of my name;
will endure beyond,
while every sorrow past or future
becomes cold-etched in me
in synapse first and then 
in bone.

About the Poet: Oonah V Joslin is poetry editor at The Linnet’s Wings. Her poetry chapbook, Three Pounds of Cells, is available on Amazon and Amazon UK.


Poets Read: Ogwigi Ehi-kowochio Blessing

We are pleased to offer our Poets Read series in honor of National Poetry Month 2019 and will run it throughout the month of April. 

Every day in April, our website and our YouTube channel will feature the voice of a poet whose work has appeared in our pages over the past year. On Sundays, we will offer two poets for your enjoyment. 

Today’s poem is Tell Papa by Ogwigi Ehi-kowochio Blessing and it appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Gyroscope Review.

Tell Papa
by Ogwiji Ehi-kowochio Blessing

Ujunwa, have they told papa that,
I am a story wrapped in a parcel,
Held in place by a colourful ribbon of tears?

Did papa believe them when they told him
That I am the ashes of burnt dreams,
Waiting to be whisked away by wandering winds,
From the fireplace of broken ambitions?

I know. Uju, I know that I am the shadow
Of a lost wonder, tiptoeing through
The thick forests of fears,
Without a map to guide me home.
But I hope this secret has not leaked from
The lips of the gossiping evening wind-
That sits by the window of papa's thoughts,
Idling until the break of an unbroken day.

Uju, regardless of what they’ve told papa,
Tell him that I am the wandering smile
He seeks in the wilderness of frowns;
Tell papa that I am that 'female son' who
Will put an end to the repulsive mockery
Which trails men who have but daughters!

Author’s Note: Ujunwa, Uju for short is my fictitious sister.
In reality, I am a daughter to a man who has five other daughters.
Ogwiji Ehi-kowochio Blessing

About the Poet: Ogwiji Ehi-kowochio Blessing is from Nigeria in Africa where she was born and raised by her parents. She is a final year student of Agriculture at the University of Ibadan where she writes articles and poems for the local press. Ogwiji is the winner of the 2017 Albert Jungers poetry Prize, among other writing awards. She blogs at www.eboquills.com.ng and her Facebook page is /ogwiji.ehi .

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