A poem’s beginning is maybe a waking dream — expressed in words.
Inside that beginning, the writer hides something secret,
even from him- or herself.
You could call that secret the poem’s truth.
Editing a poem uncovers secret meaning,
and brings words into unity with the poem’s truth.
Yet the writer cannot always make a poem better with an edit.
Edits can whittle away freshness, and obscure truth.
It’s a complicated thing.
Working on a poem is a journey.
The writer needs that journey —
its changes and its passing time — to learn to see what’s in the poem.
Slow writing — an evolution of consciousness — is what a poem is, for the writer.
Here is the third edit of a 2007 rough-draft poem. Be warned, this is not good writing — the poem has a long way to go. To see what the original was like, and the intermediate drafts, check “Like a fall of earth” on my editing blog:
Like a fall of earth in a tiny cave (a beetle’s home)
or sweet soft rain
on pinnate leaves — quiet like that, he slips into the sea
and froths up a dance, and the sea turns blue,
and the dance goes on, as the sea and the man
bring love to the center
of the earth.