Sunday, May 14, 2017

On Editing Kid Poems

A Day in the Life of a Teaching Poet: Alexander Valley School Poetry Journal notes.
Centa Theresa asks: Do you do the editing? How do they know what to edit? I have a group of women in early recovery...the group changes and I usually have 25-30 women. I guess my aim is simplified; for them to contact their imagination and to feel unimpeded by rules around the writing process, so the emphasis is on expression...I do edit on the copy I type up but I can also maybe explain.
If you're doing minor copy editing (articles and particles, grammar, syntax), you don't need to worry about explaining things. That's what book editors do. Sometimes I might lift out a section, in which case, I'll use elipses to show that it's a fragment. Then there's the cut to the chase edit, where I might delete a floppy redundant fragment. I only do it when necessary.

It's a guided process, I ask them, is that the best verb to use, are you repeating your nouns? Sometimes I'll say, do you need that line? I emphasize that first write is first draft/notes. 

First typed poem is still first draft. It's just easier to see the typos. Sometimes if a poem has great imagery, and comparisons, but is tied up in knots, I have the student explain the line. Then I say: write it like that!

Typing & formatting, correct the misspelled words, (minimal a's and the's); student read their typed poems aloud in class, and students edit them. Adult populations are less touchy about their writing being edited, than kids who will notice if you dropped a word, or put in the wrong word.....

In the teaching and writing process, students definitely say what they want. Warts and all. I say don't worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. That comes later. Just get it down on paper.

Also, when something goes into print (a book), typos and errors are frowned upon, and can ultimately undermine the credibility of a project.

Editing usually not about fixing grammar, but correcting typos, pointing out wrong words (spelling). Sometimes it's about a flabby verb choice. My pet peeve is go, as in go to the store vs walked, ran, drove. So it's often about increasing vocabulary potential to say what you mean.

Ultimately the kids come to me with their editing choices. I will veto cutting a good line, I'll say, you gotta save this line, or maybe use it in another poem. Otherwise I tend to go along with their choices. We might shave off a word or two.

It's another step in the writing process, but it makes them stronger writers. I also ask classmates to suggest ideas. Peer editing. Kids have the choice to accept or reject suggestions. It's fun.

Claudia Siefer said: There is a scene in the movie , A QUIET PASSION, where Cynthia Nixon / Emily Dickenson chides her publisher about editing her poetry. 

 Yes, Emily was very clear on her punctuation and line breaks. Editor tried to force it into the (male) Victorian model of the day. But she also wavered, many versions of her poems, not all were the result of the editor. Also, she knew what she was doing—a lifetime of poetry, at the very center of her soul, where every word mattered. 

She rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. Not quite the same paradigm as shaping young writers' scrawled first drafts into typed copy for publication.

As a poet, I bring to the table my skills, line breaks, etc. I make suggestions to the kids but they ultimately make all the choices. If I see a flabby line fragment, I might delete it, at the third edit if it still doesn't work. But for the most part, I try and involve the students in every step of the editing process. 

I type up about ten kid poems from each session, then we workshop them. I make the changes on their final copies. They still have both versions: first typed draft, and the in-class edited poem. They'll also have a chance to edit their in-class edited poems one more time on the final copy. Sometimes they revert back to the original first draft, but it's rare.

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