Here are some ideas and techniques if you are stuck on rewriting a poem.

Remember that the whole point of editing is to edit through someone else's eyes. You need to not be in love with the poem. Give it some time.

Also remember all art is subjective. and each poem is different.

  • Read your poem out loud to hear the sound of it.
  • Where does the poem surprise you? Make these accidents intentional. Build up to them or go in different directions.
  • What is the imagery doing? Is it coherent? Is it mostly concrete or abstract? Are you showing or telling?
  • Does the form reflect the content? Is there a more appropriate form that would work? Can you build in rhyme or is the rhyme inappropriate?
  • Look at line breaks. What are they doing? Are they intentional?
  • Remove clichés (or deliberately use them)
  • Remove joints of poem and common words.
  • Keep a slush pile
  • Cut the last lines

Transform the poem and create something new out of the ashes.

  • Use a line as a new poem
  • Create negative version of a poem
  • Combine three images from separate poems or separate sources.
  • Condense to a single sentence
  • Cut up the poem.
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  • Use text manipulation programs to outsource the process to machines.


Revision is a tool we should value as highly as drafting, if not more so—revision is our chance to get our poems closer to the ideal we imagine, to communicate more perfectly with our readers.

— Rachel Richardson, The Warmth of the Messy Page