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Revision as Alchemy

Revision as Alchemy


A poem rarely comes whole and completely dressed. . . . You get an impression of something—you feel something, you anticipate something, and you begin, feebly, to put these impressions and feelings and anticipation or rememberings into those things which seem so common and handleable—words. And you flail and you falter and you shift and you shake, and finally, you come forth with the first draft. Then, if you’re myself and if you’re like many of the other poets I know, you revise, and you revise. And often the finished product is nothing like your first draft. Sometimes it is.


     —Gwendolyn Brooks

Revision tends to be as important—and as lively, difficult, surprising and alchemical—as writing a poem’s first draft. Elizabeth Bishop wrote her famous poem “One Art” in two weeks, but it took her seventeen drafts to arrive at the final version. Poet Eduardo C. Corral writes, “Revision is my favorite part of writing. Revision helps me envision other possibilities for the language on the page.” This workshop welcomes students who are interested in embracing these possibilities to revise a set of previously written drafts. We will discuss various poets’ revision tactics and philosophies, come up with original approaches to editing our own drafts, complete generative exercises and read work by writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorine Niedecker, Terrance Hayes, Hannah Brooks-Motl and Jenny Zhang. Through our readings, discussions and critiques, we will elevate, invigorate and refine our drafts, ushering them into living poems.

Workshop Details

  • Professor: Emily Hunt
  • Dates: February 19–March 18, 2020
  • Time: Wednesdays, 6:30—9:30 PM
  • Location: Greenpoint (near Nassau Ave G)
  • Cost: $345
  • Class size: 5–10 students
  • Registration deadline: SUN, FEBRUARY 16, 2020
  • Earlybird discount: $15 off by SUN, FEB 2