Editing Poetry


Editing Poetry can be one of the most difficult and daunting tasks of any Editor, Publisher or 3rd party. Poetry being one of the most misunderstood and interpretive genres within the Literary Community often escapes the conformity to the rules of Grammar and many other aspects within the dynamic of written communication. Many Poets take license to circumvent these rules either deliberately or not. It is good to establish an understanding for the Editor and Poet that the process of delivering a well written and understood piece of work is offered to the reading public. Though writers of all genres can be eclectic with their own particular voices, Poets enjoy a very unique and special place when we consider the “Do’s and Don’ts” of writing.


Poetry tends to be a very subjective form of writing in it’s styling and it’s voice. Many times we Poets when expressing our individuality and creativity will do such things as : a) Create New Words; b) employ colloquial expressions; or  c) alter words to fit in with our schemes of verse or rhyme. None of this is against the Law, however there should always be a “Sacred Trust” between the Writer and Reader. What i meant by that, is simply this. What good is my writing if it is not clear nor understood because of the style with which i communicate. Many times in my experience it may be a carelessness or as i mentioned before . . . deliberate. 


Below are a few guidelines to consider pertaining your construct to assist not only the Reader to comprehend what you are saying, but we Publishers and Editors as well in performing our duties to make the Writer / Poet look good and be understood.


Splee Check


Even though i meant to say “Spell”, it does not matter, for i did not do my duty in making sure my work was clear. Most word programs do have this Tool, ‘Spell Check’ . . . use it. Be mindful that Microsoft Word and other programs do have an “Auto Fix” feature and will at time arbitrarily fix your words according to its Dictionary Database. My suggestion is not only to run the “Spell Check” but to take the time to thoroughly read your work over again and again. There is no bigger turnoff than to read a brilliant piece of work from a Lazy Writer.


Some times as i said earlier we take license to deliberately alter a word or create a new one. That being the case these wurds or wurdz should be italicized or single quoted such as ‘wurds’ to alert the reader of this deliberate election to do so. Do not “Double Quote” because it is not a Quote !


Microsoft’s Spell Check also has a Grammar Check feature. Be mindful of it’s instructions and deployment, for far too often it and Poetry do not get along.


Quotations Marks


Quotes are just that . .  “Quotes”. Titles are generally not quotes, so therefore do not use quotes on your Titles unless they are quotes. Learn and utilize the particulars of Punctuation properly and your writing will win the respect of your readers.






Again this is an area that either Writes do not understand or choose to totally disregard thereby making their writing as so . . .  not taken seriously. To ‘capitalize’ is the means by which we elevate the voice of the written word. This excludes sentence beginnings. In the old school of Poetry writing, the first letter of every line was called to be capitalized. Outside of that, when i see a piece in all Capitals i do not read it as do most of my Industry Contemporaries. To Capitalize throughout the entire write is the same as screaming. This falls under the rules of grammar. Any writer who deliberately chooses to break the rules to accommodate their voice should first be aware of the rules they violate in the realm of written communication. Ignorance of the Law and the Rules is not a valid excuse for poor writing, however the latitude allowed or taken is the individual creative responsibility of the writer.




Phrasing and Clarity


Do you want people to understand what it is you are attempting to say or convey ? Read your work thoroughly and carefully. Ask ‘qualified’ others for feedback. Work with your phraseology to consider another way of saying the same thing. Employ the use of a thesaurus for alternative words. Look up your words in the Dictionary to make sure you are utilizing your elected words in proper context. Clarity is of the utmost importance if you wish to grow your audience. Remember if you are not growing, chances are your audience and readership is not either. Eventually it will disappear if your Clarity and Phraseology is weak. Also, Poetry is not about the brilliant Metaphors alone. They can be charming to some degree, but if you are the type of Poet / Writer who depends to heavily upon them it will begin to display your weakness as well as your strengths. Consider it.


A good Poem is one that corrals the mind of the reader and leaves the gate open. ~ wsp




In the age of Free Verse, this is a very arbitrary topic. These days, quite a few Poets write in the Narrative thereby engaging the reader in a ‘story telling’ in first ort third persons. This is an exciting freedom that allows anyone to express themselves in the form we are beginning to accept as Poetry. Most of these writing in truth are more Prose oriented than Poetic, however we are not here to judge form. So . . . when i speak of Stanzas, many times they are absent. Many writers these day writing in what i have termed a “Snake” form. This is fine. But consider this. when you are writing a narrative or commentary type poem, this is not unlike a Newspaper Column. Even they have paragraph breaks. This assist the reader to understand the strengths of your message. If you are saying something significant, then allow it to be so. Consider the when and why of stanzas and how they may make your message that much more prolific.




As mentioned earlier, Punctuation is an integral part of our Language that not only lends clarity and understanding, but it also serves to assists the reader in adopting and embracing your phrasing which includes End Statements as in Sentences by utilizing periods, pauses by employing Commas, Semi Colons and Colons, etc. One of the most common things we see, is the lack of use of Accents or Apostrophes. If you are dropping of the usage of the ‘G’ as in Hanging vs Hangin, you must employ the Accent / Apostrophe to let the reader know you are employing your Creative license to do so for the sake of expedience or Rhyme. This may appear to be a courtesy, otherwise your work will show up as a Misspell.







In Conclusion :


There are far too many resources available to us on the Internet to cling to the idea that “I am Doing Me”.  I feel that as a Poet, we need to hone our skills of communication so that we are that much more understood. We all have something to say, so say it clearly by making sure that your work approaches the realm of excellence.


If you have a question . . .  “Google” it and you will be given a myriad of choices filled with perspectives and answers to make you a better Writer and reward your Readers with a richer experience.



William S. Peters, Sr.


Inner Child Press



© 22 March 2013