Rules for Revision

Rules for Revision

Decide how long your lines and stanzas
will be, then stick to it, you can move them around
later. Break each one with beauty, falling

snow or something else that’s clever
or makes sense, but not too clever,
clever looks like cleaver, and that is what you need

to take to your poem. Chop the excess sinews, the thes,
those creepy adjectives that detract from the poem.
Be specific, write, no scrawl, Braeburns or Red Delicious

over apple, Poodle not dog, puddle not water,
fill your poem with p’s or toads or gardens, or wait…
didn’t I read that somewhere? Read! Then focus

on the real, but only if it seems real— like I believe
that Williams had a wheelbarrow, and that it was red
and glazed with rain – just don’t look up

What not to do in a plem, and misspell poem
Because the o and l are so darn close together –
you’ll only get articles on mucus-killing foods

and how to clear your throat. Stay on task, don’t let the poem drift
to places you can’t come back from.
Hold the wheel and drive, wait, that’s an Incubus

lyric. Move lyric to the previous line so two don’t end
with Incubus. Try not to say Incubus three times
in your poem. Instead, get stuck, take a walk,

walk the dog, oh no, not the dog again…walk
your grandma, wait… how did she get here? Know
that no matter how much you try to avoid writing

about your grandma, she will show up. Use imagery.
Include her orange tic-tac grandma-breath or some bells,
bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells—use similes too,

but not if they are about the moon. If the moon does fall
into your poem, smash it to shards, then edit out shards –
please don’t make me explain why… reverse! reverse!

riding a poem is like writing a bike. Write it!
Be sure to leave everything open at the end, like wonder,
like windows, like wound, but keep the poem

on one page, concise, so as not to drone on
and on. Writing a poem is like going to war, but the poem
is your enemy… kill your darlings… when in doubt,

put down the pen and shoot your poem in the heart.

What are you looking for?