total submission

I just sent out a pile of submissions and feel like I’ve been spring-cleaning. Looking askance at the ones that were nominally in the submission pile, but somehow always got left behind. Some of them have been out on numerous occasions and just keep coming back, I might add.

I’ve pretty much stopped workshopping as a way of gauging a piece’s “readiness,” but workshops are a good place to reality-check those pieces you thought were ready, but somehow just keep coming back.

Some ways I’ve found useful to get a fresh look at an old poem I can’t “feel” any more:

  • Switch all the genders. Making a “she” do what you had initially written out as actions of a “he” and vice versa is often illuminating.
  • Switch “I” to “he/she” or vice versa.
  • Switch tenses. If your original piece is written in the past, put it in the future. Or get really daring and play with mood: use the subjunctive.
  • Cut out the first stanza and either replace it or amend the poem to do without it completely.

Any other ‘get a fresh look’ ideas out there?

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

4 thoughts on “total submission”

  1. My favorite way of freshening a piece that just doesn’t seem to be catching on: Take a free verse piece and turn it into a sonnet. Take something in blank verse and write it in free. It forces you to investigate all of the word choices and weigh them. I generally find that the rewrite is a stronger piece.

  2. “I’d turn free verse into blank, though, and stop there, because a sonnet is too scary a concept for some of us form-dunces”.

    This may be true. But the point of the exercise is to “get a fresh look at an old poem that one can’t ‘feel’ any more”, not necessarily to write a publishable sonnet or even to write one at all. I mean, if you attempt to write a sonnet (even if you finish it and then rip it up or delete it or even if you don’t finish it) and the attempt opens up your mind and gets your creative juices flowing and gets you to take fresh look at your old poems and gets you feeling it again, then the attempt would have been worth it, I think.

    Warm regards,


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