Living Room Craft Talks: The Art of Revision with Ellen Bass

Fridays – October 30, November 6, 13, 20, December 4 & 11. 

9 AM PT / 12 PM ET Online Live and as recordings available through January 31, 2021. 

“Whenever I remake a song . . . it is myself that I remake.” — W. B. Yeats

Each talk will be 1 1/2 hours and will include a discussion of exemplary poems that illustrate these aspects of revision, as well as practical guidance for how you might bring these elements into your own poems. The talk will be followed by a 1/2 hour for questions. I may not be able to answer all your questions in that time, but I’ll read them all and, when possible, I’ll try to work in responses in the following talks. All of the craft talks will be recorded and available to the participants until January 31, 2021. 

You don’t need a body of work that you want to revise to start learning about revision. Revision is not a separate entity, but an extension of the original writing process. There’s no clear divide between writing and revision. It’s all writing!

As we study the art of revision, I’ll be talking about the many aspects of the craft that will help you write stronger first drafts. So wherever you are—from beginner to very experienced—these talks will help you develop the skills you need to take a leap forward in your poetry.

You do not need to have taken the Living Room Craft Talk series previously offered this summer to take this series.

Many poets have the experience of generating a first draft that has a lot of vitality, a lot of potential. Though you’re pleased with your promising start, you’re not sure how to take it from that early draft to a finished poem that is as strong as you can possibly make it. Or, you may have a first draft that you’re not that excited about. And yet you sense there’s a poem lurking in there, but don’t quite know how to lure it out. Or, you may have a poem that you’ve taken through numerous drafts and it’s coming along well, but you don’t feel confident about the final decisions: should I keep this line or take it out? is this image strange and wonderful or is it just strange? did I say too much or not quite enough? what is the heart of this poem? And on and on! And, the overarching concerns: how am I making these decisions? what questions do I ask myself? what questions do I ask the poem?

Revision is not only a challenge to improve an early draft of a poem, it’s a sincere exploration, an active search for personal transformation. The self is in dialogue with the self. Similar to the way in which we are transformed in relationship with another person, we have the potential to be transformed in relation to the poem. And we have the opportunity to do that through the craft.

These talks will be very practical, offering strategies that you can apply to revising your own poems with more awareness. Much of what I’ll be presenting in these talks will apply to fiction and non-fiction writers as well.

I’ll also be sharing drafts of my own poems and including some inspiring work from my students. We’ll do close readings of these poems, calling attention to the specific choices these poets made as they continued to listen to and work with their poems. The art of revision encompasses many aspects of the craft, so the structure of this course will be to address multiple topics each week.

Register here.