DODGE AND BURN: ON REVISION
|Ansel Adams (Public Domain)|
One of the techniques we practiced was dodging and burning: manipulating exposure during the print-making process. With dodging and burning, or tone mapping, the printer can reveal details or create new effects, increasing clarity and depth.
Sometimes I go back to a recent poem I thought was pretty good when I wrote it and see a run of words that strike me as a little muddy: over-familiar, or general, or in some other way not quite as pretty good as I first thought.
Doubt like this often turns out to be a portal into a deepening of the poem. It's not just that the language needs freshening. It's that the language is placeholder for something not yet written, an image or thought or not-quite-graspable shadow.
Not all poems are kin to pure photography. But bringing attention to language that isn't quite doing the work (and you know where it is, it's right there where you wonder if the poem is doing what you hope it's doing) might be an invitation to the darkroom. Try it: shine more light on this part. What goes darker? Darken it: what's revealed? Go in and get it.