How to Revise a Poem

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All you have to do is to read the early drafts of a well-known poet’s work to realize how crucial revision is. And yet most poets resist doing the hard work involved in turning a rough draft into a finished poem. This workshop will focus on how to distance yourself from your poem so that you can identify its weaknesses. We will examine the strategies other poets have used to get “unstuck” and take a look at various ways to approach the revision process. Then we will look at the “before” and “after” versions of a successful poem to see what the poet changed and why.

About Sue Ellen Thompson

Sue Ellen Thompson is the author of five books of poetry, including This Body of SilkTheyThe Golden Hour, and The Leaving: New and Selected Poems, as well as other publications. She is also the editor of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. Her work has been included in the Best American Poetry series, read on NPR by Garrison Keillor, and featured in U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s nationally-syndicated newspaper column. She taught at Wesleyan University, Middlebury College, Binghamton University, and Central Connecticut State University before moving to the Eastern Shore in 2006. She was awarded the 2010 Maryland Author Prize from the Maryland Library Association. More about her at:

Teaching style: I am very serious about craft--what I can teach adult students that will help them write better poems. As a result, I tend to be very organized in my approach to teaching a workshop and averse to letting the discussion wander off-target. Many poets, even those with graduate degrees, lack formal education in areas such as metaphor, line breaks, revision, tone, syntax, and organizing a manuscript. My goal is to fill in the gaps and give poets the tools they need to writing moving, well-crafted poems.


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