Fourteen Steps for Revising

Fourteen Steps for Revising Poetry
By Allen Ginsberg

1. Conception
2. Composition
3. Review it through several people’s eyes
4. Review it with eye to idiomatic speech
5. Review it with eye to the condensation of syntax (blue pencil and transpose)
6. Check out all articles and prepositions: are they necessary and functional?
7. Review it for abstraction and substitute particular facts for reference (for example: ‘walking down the avenues’ to ‘walking down 2nd Avenue’)
8. Date the composition
9. Take a phrase from it and make up a title that’s unique or curious or interesting sounding but realistic
10. Put quotations around speeches or referential slang “so to speak” phrases
11. Review it for weak spots you really don’t like, but just left there for inertial reasons.
12. Check for active versus inactive verbs (for example: “after the subway ride” instead of “after we rode the subway”)
13. Chop it up in lines according to breath phrasing / ideas or units of thought within one breath, if any
14. Retype

This list appears, along with many other brief essays on literary technique and the Beats, in Ginsberg’s “Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995.”


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