Revision as Alchemy

A poem rarely comes whole and completely dressed. . . . You get an impression of something—you feel something, you anticipate something, and you begin, feebly, to put these impressions and feelings and anticipation or rememberings into those things which seem so common and handleable—words. And you flail and you falter and you shift and you shake, and finally, you come forth with the first draft. Then, if you’re myself and if you’re like many of the other poets I know, you revise, and you revise. And often the finished product is nothing like your first draft. Sometimes it is.

     —Gwendolyn Brooks

Revision tends to be as important—and as lively, difficult, surprising and alchemical—as writing a poem’s first draft. Elizabeth Bishop wrote her famous poem “One Art” in two weeks, but it took her seventeen drafts to arrive at the final version. Poet Eduardo C. Corral writes, “Revision is my favorite part of writing. Revision helps me envision other possibilities for the language on the page.” This workshop welcomes students who are interested in embracing these possibilities to revise a set of previously written drafts. We will discuss various poets’ revision tactics and philosophies, come up with original approaches to editing our own drafts, complete generative exercises and read work by writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorine Niedecker, Terrance Hayes, Hannah Brooks-Motl and Jenny Zhang. Through our readings, discussions and critiques, we will elevate, invigorate and refine our drafts, ushering them into living poems.

Workshop Details


Emily Hunt is a poet, artist, educator and arts professional. She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and is the author of the poetry collection Dark Green (The Song Cave, 2015), named a “Must-Read Poetry Debut” by Lit Hub. Her most recent works are Company (The Song Cave, 2019), a poetry chapbook, and Cousins (Cold Cube Press, 2019), a book of photographs. Hunt has been a visiting writer at the University of Richmond, Reed College and UC Santa Cruz, and has taught writing at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, Westfield State University, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Omnidawn Publishing, Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop and elsewhere. She has worked for a variety of museums and arts nonprofits, including the Poetry Society of America, the Poetry Foundation, the Contemporary Jewish Museum and Action Books.