how you revise

January 1, 2020

My sense of a poem — my notion of how you revise — is: you get yourself into a state where what you are intensely conscious of is not why you wrote it or how you wrote it, but what you wrote. You just read it as a piece, as someone else might read it, and you see where it’s alive. If that voice that you created that is most alive in the poem isn’t carried throughout the whole poem, then I destroy where it’s not there, and I reconstruct it so that that voice is the dominant voice in the poem.

Philip Levine
Interview with J.M. Spalding and Guy Shahar for The Cortland Review – Issue Seven – May 1999

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