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Fortnightly Feedback with Leah Umansky

It’s always a good idea to get another set of eyes on something.  Sometimes, we need new ways to look at the world. The ordinary is often extraordinary; the extraordinary is sometimes ordinary. This is nothing new. 

The same is true for the world of a poem and a poem is really just its own small world; isn’t it?

What I love about poetry is that it can be both extraordinary and ordinary and in both we find a way to see ourselves, to see each other and to feel something real. This is what makes poetry beautiful and delightful. However, what makes poetry difficult and hard (at least with my own work) is editing and revising (though that’s the part some poets love about the writing process).

I don’t enjoy editing my own work, but I love editing other people’s work.  It’s one of the great ironies of my life, but there it is.

Feedback is such a gift and during this online course, you’ll be able to step away from your poem and let it be. You and your poem will have some time to rest and be still.

Very often it helps to have someone else read your poem aloud, let the little voice inside their head do some tinkering to see your poem as it is – on its own terms.  In doing so, your poem is standing a test – does it work? 

How can it work better? 

How can it speak its truth?

These are some of the considerations your poem will receive. When the poems return to you, you will be ready to send them onward to the great beyond of literary journals. It is my hope that this course will provide you with the extra bit of perspective your poems might need, before they find their final resting place at a journal, in a manuscript, or elsewhere.

I always find that when I get distance from my poems, I’m able to think about what edits need to be made. For some reason, podcasts help me think more about words and about lyricism. So do walks. On one particular walk, one of the podcasts I listened to said something that really resonated with me: it’s hard to trust poetry, but it’s where the questions live. I think that’s the point of editing and critiquing – finding those questions and figuring out answers. That’s the art of feedback and criticism. It all goes back to the self – it’s hard to trust yourself sometimes. But poetry, can always be trusted. It’s something you feel. You know when it’s right and it’s time to step away. 

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