Revising Revision: Getting to the beating, pumping heart of the page

Starting in February, Chris Kondrich will teach a four week course on the messy, necessary work of revision. He took the time to share some of his thoughts on what revision means, why it is important, and the importance of undertaking this work with others. This class is a great opportunity to get to work on all that writing you did in 2015.

Sign up today for Revising Revisions. The class begins Thursday, Feb 4, and is offered for $160.

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Frequency: Why is revision important?

Chris Kondrich: Those stories or poems that appear to us as if clouds were parting in our emotional-imagination — they don’t happen as often as we’d like. Much of the work of writing is, indeed, work. It necessitates extended attention and an openness to experimentation, to trial and error. But the ability to stick with a story or poem through this process can totally pay off. It can even help us in the initial stages of the next things we write.

I also think revision is important because it’s an opportunity for community, for sharing ideas, insights and struggles. It widens the scope of writing — which is often characterized by solitude — by allowing for connection over our insights and struggles. Maybe we help each other, lend our eyes, ears and minds to the revision woes of others. And maybe, in the process, we learn something about our own work.

F: What is your favorite revision strategy?

CK: Oftentimes, what happens on the page for me is more than what I end up with. I think this is the case for most writers. There’s the gearing up, the scaffolding to contend with. I mean, it can take pages for me to get to the beating, pumping heart of a thing. Ultimately, I wrest that beating, pumping heart from the chest of the page à la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This, inevitably, means abandoning some good phrases or lines, but the thing about revision is that you’re never done. You might be done with one piece, but revision also means recycling those abandoned bits into new pieces and allowing for that recycling to take you to unexpected places. In this way, revision can also be a strategy for generating new work.

F: What is the most frustrating thing you’ve discovered about revision?

CK: Time, our eternal nemesis, can occasionally be revision’s lone obstacle. There will always be poems that need to sit on the desktop as well as the mind, and we have to allow time, experience and the evolution of perception to work their unknowable magic. That said, sometimes revision can speed up this process or maneuver around it. Sometimes it can ignite new projects while we wait. Other times, like I said, we have to wait for that re-envisioning to happen and there isn’t a way around it.

F: Who (or what genres) should take this class?

CK: In the course description for “Revision Revision,” I left things pretty open. I sincerely hope fiction writers, poets, nonfiction writers and hybrid writers all join the course because I think the more variety in perspective, intention and experience, the more expansive the potential for everyone involved. My job will be to wrangle all this potential into constructive methods across all genres, into an energizing and inspiring discussion that one wouldn’t have anywhere else. I’m just really happy that Frequency has given me the opportunity to attempt such an invaluable feat.

 

Christopher Kondrich is the author of Contrapuntal (Parlor Press, 2013), a New Measure Poetry Prize finalist. He is the winner of The Iowa Review Award for Poetry (selected by Srikanth Reddy) and The Paris-American Reading Series Prize. His poetry appears or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Cimarron Review,Colorado Review, Green Mountains Review, Gulf Coast, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Verse Daily and elsewhere, while his criticism appears in Jacket2, Colorado Review and CutBank. He holds an MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts and a PhD from the University of Denver where he was an editor for Denver Quarterly. Currently, he is Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Quarterly and an instructor at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

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