Carol Guess on Literary Minimalism

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Untitled by Nasreen Mohamedi

I see much of my work as blocks of text that are made up of sentences, which are made up of words, and each of those words and sentences and blocks of text are modular—I can move them around as I see fit. I can subtract and subtract and subtract. I hate to add. I feel strongly that what I am trying to say is already on the page waiting to be uncovered. I print out pieces, cut out paragraphs, tape them together in a new order. I hate that such clunkiness is part of my revision process, but reading Carol Guess’ essay today on Lit Hub made it feel a little more okay:

“…looking at the papers strewn on the floor, I saw lines lift as if illuminated. I understood clearly that the poems were there, hidden, as sculpture hides in a block of stone. It wasn’t four books, but one; the obstacle was excess. I didn’t need to write more, but less.”  -Carol Guess

Revising That Living and Breathing Thing

I follow this cool poet on twitter, @monetwithlove. She’s always tweeting out these self-deprecatory things or little supportive, writerly-type tips. The other day, she sent out a survey asking writers which is harder: revisions or beginning something new. I’ve always found revisions to be harder… maybe because often I’m not completely comfortable with how to approach a new piece that doesn’t know what it wants to be yet. Is it crazy that I see each piece as a living and breathing thing with its own identity? That I don’t want to poke it too hard for fear I’ll injure it somehow? I have a classmate who’s focusing on the topic of revisions for her craft presentation and I think that’s an excellent idea. I’ll share notes from her lecture here when I have them. In the meantime, here are some images of ways I attempt to stumble through my own revision process.