Revising for Vision

Revision. It’s a word that implies a piece of writing had an initial “vision,” which I suppose is usually true. But occasionally, a poem’s true vision comes during the process of revision.

I’m writing about this because I’m revising a selection of poems from my unpublished full-length collection. At it’s longest, the manuscript is 84 pages, but I continually revise as the rejection slips come back from editors. Last summer, I plucked seven or eight that stood out to me as subpar and took them back into the revision stage.

One of the poems have even been published in the last-I-heard-it -was-defunct Mid-America Poetry Review, which made it especially difficult to admit to myself that it still needed work, needed vision, actually. I had taken the poem, “A Question of Fire,” through a round of revision since its publication, but I’m modifying it again, this time going a bit deeper into the underlying concepts and developing a more concrete theme.

Here’s the version that appeared in Mid-America Poetry Review:


A Question of Fire (Version 1)

Alone again, he sets a match to the lowest,

driest edge of stacked kindling pine,

and light carves a pulsing circle from the forest.

But fire is just a stone tossed to the abyss.

Smoke filters through needles and nests,

then settles uncertain and dim,

a puzzle whose last pieces are out of his hands.

At the center of all things, he sits and waits.

The night begins to come back together

as the treetop canopy dissolves

and flames burn to glowing bones

that raise more questions than fire can answer.

My first subsequent revision took a different approach to line breaks and stanzas but didn’t circumvent the lack of “plot” in the poem nor the weak character development represented in the “man.”


A Question of Fire (Version 2)

Whispering tongue

ignites stacked

kindling pine

a carved circle

alight in the forest

just within

a man sits

at the center

of all things

and waits

smoke nests

among green

needles, settles

formless as gossip

or old prayers,

a puzzle’s last

pieces in his

upturned hands

fuel exhausted

seething coals

now cold stones

tossed to

the abyss

night folds

in on itself

treetop canopy

dissolves into

the heavens

flames burn

to glowing

bones that raise

more questions

than fire can answer.


For the third version, which I still am working on, my intent is to develop a more specific character and to pin down the abstract spiritual theme, which seems to be manifesting itself as an expression of prayer.


~ by ericedits on November 7, 2011.

3 Responses to “Revising for Vision”

  1. Hmmmm Your great revisions makes me wanna revise some of my works…


  2. This is a beautiful piece of work and I am anxious to read/hear your third revision. I can understand that there is a strong spiritual aspects.

    My poems are never “done”… Never. I learned that years ago. Maybe they are not supposed to be? As we grow so do they as they are a part of us.


    • Thank you, Ms. Kathleen. My poems are rarely done, either. Some I’ve been revising for 15 years, even after they have been published. But I’m glad of that because it means I’m learning something from life that’s worth keeping track of in my poems.


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