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Modifying Others' Poetry

More than once when reading someone else's poetry, I have been drawn to changing the work to better fit my preferences, usually for more regular meter. Once, when I shared such changes, the poet said that the changes did not quite fit (meaning or sound) but that they were helpful in providing a fresh perspective for refining the poem, so such may not rightly be considered improvements but may sometimes have the potential of being helpful.

Below are three examples of such modifications. The first two original poems were written by Larry Hammer, who shared them while an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis. I will use the following notation to indicate the changes: {original:changed}

Two examples are awaiting permission from the poet.

The third (and final) example comes from a fragment out of Alan Shapiro's "Mother: Sun Bathing" quoted by Dannye Romine Powell in the Books section of The Charlotte Observer (24 March 1996).

{While:'Oh, while} you're at it, {:dear,} do my legs too,{:'} and {:so} your {:resting} friend rose from the chaise beside yours, tucking {:— stay —} {and:} jiggling {:— up —} the unstrapped black {:, full-bodied} bathing suit still farther up over her heavy bust so she could lean down safely, {spread:overspread} the white {cream:suncream} across your back, {:your neck\} {your:and} shoulders{,: —} kneading {it:} gently {\down:, firmly down\} all over you until your {:sheltered} skin shone {:moist and moon-like} in the drowsy wake of where her {:oiled} hands were {:slowly} drifting.

In this case, the changes nearly transform the original into blank verse. The tone also seems to be substantially altered; the changed work seems more sensual/erotic (partially merely from the changes in meter and sound and partially from the word associations.