I finished NaPo and this month was particularly difficult. Part of it was because I had the SEAF event, but also the theme was just impossible to maintain. But now that the first drafts are done, it’s time to start the revisions. Oddly enough, one of my pieces, “Love, Lust, and Sex after Sixty” was written before I found out that the photographer who inspired the work, David Steinberg, was going to be at SEAF. I really need to pay attention to details, but whatever. His work has inspired several pieces of mine over the years as he photographs humans and the intensity of their enjoyment of being in their own skin and the taste of their lover’s skin. Having now made the thirty days and thirty poems, it’s time to begin the culling, the cutting, and scraping the lipstick off those pigs. Sometimes, yes, at this stage in my writing a piece comes out “whole,” but – well, never. No, I always find a tweak, a word to change, some rhythm to smooth. Do I put all the pieces out for critique? No. Do I accept all the comments: yes. And then I say, “Thank you,” as I was taught at PFFA. Do I revise per all the comments: no. The most important focus in this work is the poem itself. If I, as the writer, allow my hubris to stand in the way of strengthening the work, then I’ve crippled my own “child.” But it is a fine line the writer must tread because A) Not all criticism is created equal, B) Not all criticism will strengthen the piece, and C) It is entirely up to the writer to choose – unless you’re working under contract in which case, do what your fuckin’ editor tells you to do, goddamnit.. Even Yaweh’s words were edited down to create The Old and The New Testaments. Get over yourself and kill your babies. Strike the purple from your prose. Identify each and every cliche and pick them out like you’d pick nits from your hair. Abstractions such as “love,” “soul” (there are more than five. Line through every single modifier, every adjective, and adverb. Select only one to add back in. Pay attention to pronouns. Reread to make sure you’re referencing the correct he/she/it. Read your work aloud. Don’t whisper it. Read it aloud, in a normal voice and listen to yourself. Put the work away. Hide it in a drawer for six months. Then look at it with “fresh eyes.” “Fresh eyes” take time. There’s no escaping that. This is the process I’m about to embark on with my “Thirty Poems of Love and Other Disasters.” Wish me luck. I’m targeting the Walt Whitman contest this year (but I say that every year and never get everything ironed out).