Thread: Harder to edit
November 12, 2008 @ 10:06 AM #1
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Harder to edit
This should probably be in the gripe forum, but...
Dammit, poetry is harder to edit than fiction. I discovered this when we were writing programs for the EDP engine. I mean, in fiction, you see a typo and you fix it. The 'rules' of grammar are all laid out for you, and you just have to obey them. But in poetry, the mistakes are probably intentional. And it's not just the grammar. If a poem has screwy formatting, that's probably the way it should be. I was helping Oonah, and I went through a poem correcting spelling mistakes, and the poet actually complained.
For all you poetry editors out there, the staff of EDP included, I don't know how you do it.
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November 12, 2008 @ 3:03 PM #2
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Back when I was publishing poetry, I simply stated that poems would be formatted for the publication. That takes a lot of guesswork out of it. Sure, you lose out on 'concrete' or shaped poetry, but those are pretty rare these days anyway.
The biggest difference I find in my approach is that I tend to ask questions more when editing poetry. And, frankly, if I had the kind of slush pile EDP obviously has (I say obviously because of the rate of rejections I'm getting and reading about here and there), I would simply forego any poem that needed editing - if it's that good, then get the author to rewrite it.
There is a substantial amount of guesswork involved in editing poetry. Much of that can be mitigated by open dialogs with the poet(s). In fiction, you can point to a sentence and say 'that's awkwardly phrased'. You can do that with a line of poetry, but you're shortchanging yourself, the poem, and the poet if you don't take it a step further and ask why it is phrased as it is. In poetry, it doesn't matter for poot whether the syntax or diction is 'right' or 'wrong'. It matters if it works within the context of the poem.
What I find really disappointing is when I get feedback on a work (fiction or poetry) that seems to demonstrate that the editor or slush reader never bothered to ask further - seemingly assuming that I'm simply either incompetent or sloppy because they didn't see or understand what they expected there.
From the rejections I've collected over the last two years, you'd think there was a Natural Law forbidding ambiguity. Unfortunately for me, deliberate ambiguity is one of my favorite tools - and, I believe, one of my greatest strengths. It's especially disturbing to me when an editor comments on it in one of my poems as a reason for rejecting it, as it's usually the catalyst for the underlying meaning of the poem in the first place.
I really have to wonder how many rejection notices I've sent out with bonehead comments; I'm certain they number in the scores if not hundreds. But that's part of the job. You learn and grow into it, or you stagnate and grow out of it. That's life.
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