Lesson No. 1: What does it mean to revise? with Sebastian Paramo

In this lesson, we will discuss what it means to revise vs. editing and will generate a poem for us to get started. We’ll read an essay by Kim Addonizio and hopefully get a better understanding of what it means to revise. Her essay will offer us a primer on techniques for revision and writing about the process.

Following this week’s lesson, I’d like you to describe your process in using these techniques and how they help or don’t help you. Writing about our process will also serve the purpose of helping you find your comfort zone and nail your ars poetica, or art of poetry. We’ll describe our writing process for each exercise we do for the next four weeks. By the end of this course, you’ll hopefully have a better idea what things work for you. These methods are only suggestions. You might end up taking a different angle or perspective from these lessons and that’s okay. So long as you’re open minded, we should all get along swell.


Readings: What does it mean to revise?

Revising Vs. Editing

Do-overs and Revisions by Kim Addonizio

Discussion: Describing your process

Include a brief sentence or two discussing your process going from the draft to the final draft. 500 words or less, please. Comment on your fellow course mates’ comments.


Writing Exercise: Using “The Bermuda Triangle” with revision

Begin by choosing one of the above optical illusions as your focus then consider this chosen illusion as two perceptions within a single narrative. See the below writing prompt and example.

Prompt & Example

This exercise comes from Wingbeats: Exercises & Practices in Poetry. This particular one is called “The Bermuda Triangle” and is used by Catherine Bowman. This exercise is pretty easy and shouldn’t take more than an hour to complete. This exercise is meant to create raw material.

Begin by creating Point A: The Fear List. Write this list from left to right. This will waste less paper and be useful for the purposes of this exercise. Don’t be afraid to list the small and the big ones. Surprise yourself with what each fear triggers you to write. Do this for about five to ten minutes.

Point B: The Desire list. This list will also be done from left to right. Think of your desires from when you were growing up, now, and what you expect to desire as you grow. Specificity is always best in these lists. Do this for five to ten minutes as well.

Point C: The Image list. Use the five senses and think of snapshot images from your memory and imagination. Think of the strange and mundane things you encounter in your dreams and your everyday life. A pink cloud? Cotton candy being sold at the carnival? Buttery popcorn at the movie theater? Rain on a swimming pool? Chickens squawking? Be as specific and concrete as possible. As always, write from left to right and do this for five to ten minutes.

Once you are finished creating these three points, read them aloud to yourself. Notice patterns and the trajectory your mind is traveling. Look over your lists and circle three entries from each list. Try not to think about it too much. Let the words speak to you. Now take a good ten to fifteen minutes to construct a poem that’s at least 10-15 lines. Use at least as many entries as you can, but know that you don’t have to use them all so long as you use at least one from each list. The freshness of the exercise will be in your mind already taking you places. The only real requirement for this exercise is that you avoid using fear and desire.

Consider this poem you’ve created your first draft. Save it for the class to compare. Now thinking about the Kim Addonizio essay and the exercise you just completed, comb through the poem and find another triggering point for you to leap into for your next draft. Flesh out the details. You will turn in this new draft for workshop next week.


Sebastian Paramo, FacultySebastian Hasani Paramo received his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Front Porch, Prelude, North American Review, Huizache, upstreet & elsewhere. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. He curates Pegasus Reading Series and is currently a teaching fellow in the doctoral program at The University of North Texas.



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