Monday, June 04, 2007

Alexie interview and revision out loud

For those of you who are Sherman Alexie fans, and those who just like entertaining interviews with writers, check out this excellent interview on the Powell's Bookstore site.

I love the idea that he's rewriting his novel as he reads/performs it, and the idea of republishing it to reflect those revisions. He's right -- musicians change their songs all the freakin' time! Poets, well, sometimes we revise a poem between its appearance in a journal & its subsequent enshrinement in a book; very rarely, I'll find a poem in a selected/collected and note that it has been revised since its earlier bookification.

When you give a reading, do you revise your poems as you read or do you always stick to what's already written down? Do you improvise on them? I guess this question is aimed more at "page poets" since I already know slam/performance poets do that kind of thing a lot -- but if you count yourself among those latter, and you also publish, how do you decide which version gets published?

I know I certainly use reading aloud as a revision tool, reading my drafts aloud to myself or sometimes to my poetry group. (I'd kind of worry about any poet who didn't do this at least some of the time.) Occasionally I've changed a word here and there during an actual reading, either on purpose or inadvertently, and sometimes those small changes stick. But I'm talking about more extensive revision, and public readings moreso than critique groups/workshops.



Jessie Carty said...

I haven't given a reading in a long long time but when I did and when I read aloud to myself at home I find I am constantly revising. I seem to be running on the theory that until someone publishes it, it is fair game to just keep on revising it. Probably killing some of the poems but just have to keep trying :)

David V said...

Rarely at the podium, but frequently in the few minutes before reading. Usually, in the final readthrough, I make deletions I've been thinking about, and more clearly notice my "usual mistakes" (#1: Excessive consonance). And it's happened at least once that I heard someone do something similar but more successful to what I was trying, and I struck several lines and improved (I think) the poem.

KATE EVANS said...

Reading aloud--whether to an audience or to myself--definitely sparks changes in my work.

I love Alexie. Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a brilliant book, and Smoke Signals is one of my all-time favs.