Member Rara Avis
You have asked some very important questions and I probably could ramble on and write a LOT about this. Instead of "just letting the words flow out" here (to use your own phrase), I'll try to keep it brief and give you my opinion in a nutshell. I have a feeling that others will respond to this and that this will become a conversation involving several people, so after my initial response now, I'm sure I'll be back later to discuss this more in detail.
Ok... here goes. My humble opinion is that you will never have a truly successful piece... a work of art, if you will... if you just let the words flow out without working on it and editing it. That's why when you look back on the poem, "something doesnt' work right". It's because you have only written your thoughts... not poetry. A poem needs to be edited, edited, edited until you have it honed to the most "perfect" you can get it. (This isn't to say that writing fun, light verse, can't be done, too... and as many people here know, I do that myself from time to time as most here know)
For the more serious poetry, though, the object, IMHO, is to write as concisely and succinctly as you can in order to relay an experience, evoke an emotion, or otherwise cause some "change" in thinking or feeling to your reader. Therefore, from what you've written here, it seems you are probably not spending enough time trying to "fix it", whatever you perceive the problem to be. So, you might "fix" one word or line, then it seems to throw the "essence" of the poem off, right?
I vote for working and working until the essence of the poem "BECOMES" (if you will) and starts to have a life of its own. In other words, you want to say what you want to say so that your reader actually BECOMES YOU... and is inside your brain, your heart, your life. That, to me, is good poetry.
This is not to say that good poetry can not be interpreted in different ways by different readers. You may do the very best job you can do and speak with a very clear voice, creating a picture in the mind of the reader and evoking an emotion. But because that reader has had different experiences than you, he or she may interpret what you've written differently than what you've intended. This can actually be a good thing. I have often had a reader tell me that they saw something in a poem I wrote that I didn't see.... and y'know what? Once they pointed it out to me, I was enlightened to THEIR interpretation and it made my poem even more successful, I think. (Did I say I wasn't going to ramble? Geez.... this oughta teach you not to ever believe a word I say... hehehe).
Ok, so here's some ideas for you which, if you incorporate them into your writing routine, you should become happier with the results when you go to "fix" your original thoughts:
1- Get a Thesaurus and wear it out. Make sure you have chosen the EXACT word or phrase you intend which will get your thought, feeling, or situation out to the reader.
2- Don't be satisfied with your "final" poem until you have edited it AT LEAST 3 times. Sit it down for a while, then go back to it with fresh eyes.
3- READ READ READ.... read other people's poetry and especially delve into the classics from time to time. Read those who are considered major poets ... those who are "popular" poets... and learn from their style
4- Use the tools of your craft. Writing poetry is a craft. Craftsmen have specific tools to their specific craft. For the writer, those tools include personification, imagery, alliteration, metaphor, simile, and structure. Study how these are used by finding examples of them and then use them.
5-Keep a poetry journal. Take notes. Add to it daily. Write, write write. What you write in that journal (just notes on your daily life experiences or phrases or feelings or words that strike you as GREAT words) can eventually be used in poetry you have yet to write.
Well, that's about all I can think of for now. (Whew! aren't you glad? hehehe) Anyway, these are some of the things that, in the best of all possible worlds, I try to follow up with while struggling to perfect my own craft of writing poetry.
Bottom line is, if you make it a habit to edit, edit, edit and read, read, read, and work on incorporating the tools of your craft.... and you do that over and over.... eventually, your craft becomes art. Words that just "flow out" need tweaking for you to live up to your name of "craftsman". Eventually, the perfection of the craft allows your soul to shine through.... that's when you become an "artist". A poem is a painting. Make use of all the painting techniques, colors, and brushes you have available to you.
Remember, Joy, when you read this, that I haven't read any of your poetry yet.... I will, though, and will look for it now that I know your name.... sooooo, it is quite possible that i'm telling you many things you already know and already do. If so, keep doing it! Thanks for letting me ramble. Hope I didn't go too much off on a tangent. I'll look for your poetry in Open Poetry... is that where you post? If it's in another forum, let me know. I'll look forward to reading your work.
[This message has been edited by doreen peri (edited 10-22-1999).]