Who is the Editor?

Last Friday the Moosemeat writers descended upon the Arts & Letters Club for our annual chapbook launch. Note to organizers: if you want a great event  do it at the Arts & Letters Club! You have to experience it to believe it. I was mesmerized by the readings...then I was off to a poetry weekend up north the very next morning.

At one of our afternoon workshops, one of my friends who rarely writes poetry, asked me why we edit poems. She wanted to know because she felt that in the moment of writing she was expressing something  whereas when she went to edit  it felt like manipulation - a kind of false tinkering with the original intent. A great discussion ensued among all of us at this point. Everyone had a different idea about the editing process. A few people spoke about how they had ruined their poems by editing. I've done it myself and seen others ruin their work too. As you weed out all the "mistakes," you can sometimes pull the poem up by its roots, and you're left with nothing.

Just as creating/writing is an art so is editing/honing. If you take the analogy of making a sculpture  writing could be seen as shaping the face and all of the larger pieces of the sculpture  the editing as the smoothing over of the rough surfaces and addition of the finer details. But if you don't know how to edit, you could inadvertently chip off a nose or a finger of your sculpture. You need to approach editing with skill and respect the original intent of what you were trying to say in the first place.


The editor part of me needs to be respectful toward the writer part of me. When I edit, what is my attitude? Am I willing to "get it right" at all costs? I find when I have "determination" to get the job done  it never seems to come together. Clarity can come not by pushing  but allowing. We need time/perspective in some cases to see what we have. Sometimes a draft contains rich raw material - sometimes there is simply nothing to work with.

Ego likes to take over and figure it all out, but I'm never satisfied by pushing my way through a particular difficulty  a certain acceptance is needed  a certain understanding to find that right word or phrase.

The weekend was spent at a beautiful farm where we were encouraged to pick up our pens and paper and write outdoors. I chose three spots to write: a field where three poppies were blooming, by the pond (of course), and under a huge maple tree. I was in heaven!