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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > June 2016 > Poetry workshop: Kill or cure?

Poetry workshop: Kill or cure?

A poet asks for Alison Chisholm’s advice on redrafting an image-filled poem inspired by illness

One of the hardest questions to answer as a poet is how much revision does the poem need, and how much more would squeeze the life out of it. Unfortunately there is no simple answer. Every poem is different, with its unique trigger and the special fingerprint of its construction and development. While a poem in a set form has a recognised shape to define it, a free verse poem needs to devise its own shape even as its message unfolds.

Poet Michael Woods submitted the brilliantly titled Moon Cuttings, which began from the angle of its imagery. Rooted in past experience, he explains: it was basically memories from having a family member who was struggling to breathe and what it was like with them in the house. The original intention was for the poem to focus on images surrounding this experience, but imply a bigger picture, to talk about life ongoing and how all our lives and deaths and fears fit into the bigger, interconnected environment. Michael Woods acknowledges that the poem needs revision, making the point that ‘there’s a bit of a “crunch” as the gears change and I go from talking about illness to spiders!’ – but doesn’t know where to start without ripping it to shreds, and so spoiling everything he’s achieved.

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