Some Possible Questions to Ask of Your Poem in Revision

In The Poet’s Companion: a guide to the pleasures of writing poetry, Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux reprint Jane Hirshfield’s Napa Valley Writers’ Conference handout on revision.

I’m copying from them.

Some Possible Questions to Ask of Your Poem in Revision

What is being said?
Is there joy, depth, muscle in the music of its saying?
Is there more that wants to be said?
Does it want a more deeply living body of sound?
Is it true?
Is it ethical?
Does it feel?
Does it follow its own deepest impulses, not necessarily the initial idea?
Does it know more than you did when you started it?
Are there things in it that don’t belong?
Are whatever digressions it takes in its own best service?
Are there things in it that are confusing?
Are there things in it that are cliched or sentimental?
Is it self-satisfied?
Is it predictable?
Does it go deep enough? Far enough?
Is it particular?
Is the grammar correct?
If the syntax is unusual, is it for a purpose?
Are the transitions accurate?
Is it in the right voice?
Is it in the right order?
Does the diction fit?
Could any of its words be more interesting? more surprising? more alive?
Do its rhythms work? (i.e., both seem right and accomplish meaning and feeling)
Does the music work?
Does the shape/form work? (line breaks, stanzas, etc.)
Does each image work? each statement?
Does it allow strangeness?
Does each of its moments actively move the poem toward its full realization?
Should it go out into the world?
Is it a seed for something else?
Is it finished?
Six months later, is it still finished?
Six years later, is it still finished?

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