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Tuesday Tips: Vacuuming Your Poem

Updated: Jun 25

You have a poem you’ve been working on, and think it might

be ready to submit to a journal—maybe to Spirit Fire Review.

As you revise and polish your poem, here are some housekeeping hints to keep in mind.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a special poetry vacuum cleaner

that removes excess “a”s and “the”s, unnecessary adjectives,

and any other debris cluttering up your poem?

I’m not a purist when it comes to a and the; sometimes they

clarify meaning and help the flow of a poem. Unfortunately,

they can also interfere with flow, and often don’t add much

to the poetic impact. Time for the vacuum.

Adjectives are great, but choose carefully. Just ones that best

express what you want to say; search for the most specific,

and most powerful, ones. If you find yourself using a lot

of adjectives, see if you can get those verbs and nouns off

the couch to do their share of the work. Time to change the

vacuum bag yet?

Take a step back from your poem. Does it look the way

you want it to? You’ve cleared cobwebs, wiped down line

breaks, and straightened adjectives. Now you might

consider rearranging furniture—for example, the order

of stanzas, length of stanzas, the overall shape and feel

of the poem.

Does it invite the reader to come in? What will their first

impression be? Where will they sit? Will they want to stay

for a while? Is your poem ready for company? I don’t know about you, but I need to order more vacuum bags. Pardon my dust.

These tips may be geared more toward poets, but we also welcome submissions

from writers of nonfiction and from artists, including photographers.

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