On Revision

(Copyright Sharon Olds. Click to enlarge.)

I picked up this handout from Sharon Olds' Friday talk as she discussed her poetry and process.

The first version of "On the Subway" was written in 1980 and originally published in The Gold Cell in 1987. Then, a few years after publication, after speaking to a class who pointed out the "racism" in the poem, she went back to it with a fresh eye. Sharon revised the poem in 1992, chose sharper, more accurate images, and published it again in Strike Spark: Selected Poems, 1980-2002. See the changes I've underlined in the handout.

When the poem was published, there weren't many poets--white poets--taking about issues of race in poetry. Having studied with her, I'm not surprised she went back to give the most accurate representation of that moment on the subway. More important, this example goes to show that you can always go back to your poems and make changes, even after publication.


Jim K. said…
Was that from her "on craft" session?
I got a lot from Kay's...mainly due to
similar quirks. Wish I could have gone
to ALL the "craft" things.

I'm really crossing fingers for the
videos. Hope they are generous
releasing them.
January said…
It was on Friday, Sharon's Poets on Poetry session. Wish I could have gone to more sessions, too.

So nice seeing you at Dodge!

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